This blog was first posted by Navin Williams on The Greenbook Blog.

When we think of the mobile, it is often considered elitist and almost all discussions are brought down to a smart vs. dumb (feature phones). Whenever I have heard Smartphone based market research, I have tried to bring forth the point that it’s about smart enough for market research rather than Smartphone.

In today’s blog I want to highlight ‘smart enough’ from a consumers’ point of view and how mobile scores over other forms of research channels. In the developing world the biggest opportunity that big FMCG firms are going after is the bottom of the pyramid, those consumers who subsist often at a dollar a day or less depending on the country and continent. These consumers despite their tight budgets manage to stretch their dollar, and there are enough of them, unfortunately, in the struggling world for them to be attractive enough to be targeted.

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If you have a look at the above chart and read the article it was sourced from, around 50% of the world’s population (~3 billion people) live on $2.50 or less. So understandably it’s a mouth watering prospect if you have a product or service that is not only essential to them, but that they are willing to spend a part of their $2.50 or less on. And we as market researchers are hopefully equipped to engage with these consumers and come up with insightful gems for manufacturers to offer their goods and services to these consumers.

However conducting research amongst these highly sought after consumers is also a serious challenge and in this blog I would like to make the case that mobile research is a good way to engage with them despite a few challenges.

Some of these challenges are:

  • Consumers live in tough conditions and regions usually far removed from the urban centers, with access being difficult.
  • Literacy – Often communication is difficult with these consumers as they are have limited exposure or no exposure to schooling and written communication. However they are often savvy in the use of mobiles, especially those consumers who would consider buying goods and services would always spend their hard earned money first to buy and maintain a mobile phone after food! This is because the mobile is not just a communication tool but an enabler to enhance their livelihood.

Given these challenges, deriving insights from these groups is not just a challenge but often expensive. We have used mobile to engage with these consumers and have successfully engaged and discovered rich insights. Mobile allows us to share universal visual symbols easily which work very well.

One of the big problems we had was illiteracy, but surprisingly these same consumers could wield their mobile phones with ease. So we used symbols to ask questions and logos to identify brands throughout the mobile survey. Making it game like, asking them to navigate the questions by making choices as they go along. And requiring to complete a certain levels or a number of questions. What we did was not revolutionary, but the impact was because we used only symbols to convey the questionnaire.

In a technique we have started to use quite often, especially for personal care products, includes video and other visual content to convey messages. For example, if we are doing a product home placement or concept testing of a product, we allow consumers to use their phone to first view a video or series of visuals on their mobile on how to use or apply a product. Then we ask them to use the product and record their usage on their mobile phones, backed up with photos and videos where they are willing to share. Especially in conservative and developing markets in the APAC region we have found this methodology very revealing with consumers sharing a lot more of themselves and also we are able to convey messages more clearly via a video or photo story. Of course, often we build in the incentive of either lending them a Smartphone or if they already have a Smartphone (which is often the case) we cover their data plan for the period of the study. Often we have found that many of these consumers have Wi-Fi at home and are willing to share even more of themselves using their phones.

One thing, however, we have not seen is a drop in the cost of research using mobile especially in the developing world. We are able to give enhanced insights and better quality data, however, currently at a much higher cost. This is largely due to there be a lack of volume for mobile lead research, which hopefully will change with time. Also in most of Asia the cost of conducting is F2F research is so low that for the research consumer the willingness to pay for mobile or other similar solutions is often pretty rare. So as more mobile research is conducted and volumes drive prices down, the costs will never drop to the level of F2F in some of the developing markets, where the benchmark is set to untenable levels. However, from my interactions, a research buyer also recognizes that they get what they pay for.

The Mobile Advantage In Illiterate Or Limited Literacy Populations

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