Liveminds Mobile 1440

Why apps are essential for mobile qual

Hugh Carling

Hugh Carling


Co-founder of Liveminds. I love to bring like-minded people together. Whether that's growing businesses, running online communities, staging events or captaining my village cricket team, nothing makes me happier than seeing people with a shared passion, coming together and making the most of it.

We launched the Liveminds mobile app back in early 2012, the first online qual platform in Europe to do so. We’ve been able to learn a lot about what clients really need to run successful mobile qual projects since then.

However, in a world where 80% of all mobile internet usage is done through apps, people have already made their feelings clear on how they prefer to use their smartphone. So when I saw Tim Macer’s interesting article on the Esomar website, debating the best technology for mobile surveys, I thought it would be good to clear up any confusion on how this debate could apply to mobile qual.

With mobile qual, it’s very simple – websites accessed on mobile browsers are not a proper solution, for researchers or participants. Here’s why:

1. Offline access is critical ‘in the moment’

‘Anytime, anywhere’ or ‘sometimes, in some places’?
It’s not news to anyone that mobile signal in the UK is not something you can always rely on. However it’s actually a lot better here than it is in international markets. Yet O2 has only 80% 3G coverage. Likewise only ¾ of France is covered. Capturing ¾ of thoughts and experiences in the moment? That is not good enough. Real, emotive, high impact mobile qual relies on people being able to respond anytime, in any place. To capture that moment, in all its colour, as it happens.

Happy or frustrated participants?
It’s not just researchers who lose out though. Nothing kills enthusiasm for using your mobile more than waiting, frustrated, to upload something until your web browser eventually gives up saying ‘cannot connect to the internet.’ In your research, that is a sure fire way to get participants to hate your project and disengage from it completely.

To ensure this never happens, in Liveminds, we put the participant in complete control – they can capture content immediately, always, and simply sync it when they know they have a reliable internet connection. This means it’s effortless for participants and they enjoy taking part. The result for you? You get the kind of powerful clips that bring your insight to life and help clients make critical decisions.

All project types or limited options?
If you think through the sorts of projects where mobile adds most value, immediately you’ll see why being able to respond offline is vital.

How many times do you lose signal when you go shopping in a big store or supermarket or retail park? A lot. Do you then feel like getting your phone out to write a message when you’re carrying your shopping to the car? Of course not. What happens to your phone when you go to a big sponsored event with big crowds? Yep, your signal dies. Normally you can’t even text your friends, let alone upload a video. And when do you get a chance to sit down and scribble down your thoughts during a busy day at work? Likely on the bus, the train or the tube. Again, you’re not going to be relying on a mobile signal there without tearing your hair out.

2. Gives you control when you need it

Often it’s best for researchers to let participants express themselves in the best way possible. As we discussed in a recent post on video, some participants respond better using text, others in video. Sometimes it will be more convenient to use their mobile and other times their laptop. That’s great, but often there are very good reasons to retain control over the way participants respond to the questions and activities you pose.

If you want to show people an intricate new packaging design, you don’t want participants giving their opinion when they’ve looked at it on a screen the size of a cigarette packet. Likewise, if you’re presenting a new strategy and you want to get detailed, considered feedback, you don’t want them typing into a keyboard the size of a matchbox.

Some degree of researcher control is essential to most research projects. If you have to do this by relying on a recommendation to your participants, you lose that control. With apps like Liveminds, you can make things as free or as controlled as you wish.

3. Apps are far easier to use

There is a good reason why iPhone users have downloaded over 100 apps per device. In just 5 years, Apple have sold 50 billion apps on their 500 million phones. That reason is that apps have provided a simple way for people to do a million things on their mobile, which were at best confusing and at worst impossible, using web browsers. The app ethic of streamlining features to focus on the wheat and removing the chaff has rightly revolutionised the way people use the internet. It’s why many progressive software companies adopt a ‘mobile first’ design principle now. Many people feel entirely comfortable using apps for everything from navigating maps, to buying food to listening to music but are still bemused by the unsatisfactory experience of using the web on a tiny browser.

Over the next 5 years, this situation may change. At the moment 17% of Liveminds’ visitors come through mobile web browsers and we ensure those people have a good experience. What we don’t do is pretend that this is currently a genuine way to offer mobile qual. The only benefit in that approach is for platform providers to save themselves development costs. For researchers and participants to really engage in their projects and deliver powerful insights in full colour, apps are the only viable way.

Have you tried using web browsers or apps for mobile qual? What are your own experiences of the two approaches? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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