Asia Research had the chance to discuss with Jasper Lim, CEO of the Merlien Institute and Education Director for the Mobile Marketing Research Association (MMRA), the challenges and opportunities in Mobile Market Research, and how mobile has changed research.
Asia Research: What are the challenges when looking at mobile research from client-side…
Jasper Lim: Thank you for having me. From the client-side perspective, I think the biggest challenge is the fear of the unknown. Client-side researchers often question the representativeness and validity of mobile research. Are the results comparable to traditional research methods? How reliable are the results?
AR: … and from agency-side and technology firms?
JL: From the agency and tech firm perspective, the biggest challenge is how to convince client-side researchers that mobile research adds value to their existing research toolbox. They also need to show clients that some parts of the research component can be done through mobile cheaper, faster and better. For instance, many clients do not know mobile has completely changed the way ethnography is done. In the old days, ethnographers used to carry these heavy video cameras and observe respondents everywhere they went. These days, respondents can record and self-report using the photo and video capabilities of a smartphone.
I think overall, MRMW Asia 2013 has successfully brought together client-side, agency-side and tech firms from around the region to come together to discuss ground-breaking technology, case studies and best practices on mobile research. It is important that agencies and technology firms continue educating their clients and providing them with solid case studies and research-on-research materials.
AR: What opportunities do you see?
JL: I think the opportunities of mobile research are immense. As technology evolves, more and more capabilities are coming into the market. For instance, Kantar showcased their mobile capable natural language interaction tool, biometric technology and collecting data using the “bit-size chunks” method. All these ground-breaking mobile research techniques provide opportunities for clients to collect consumer information at different touch-points.
The other emerging trends include the triangulation of passive and active data to accurately profile consumers. With the marriage of active and passive data, clients can unlock and understand consumer behaviour at a particular place and at a particular time. This is not the case with traditional face-to-face recall methods.
In addition, with the revenue of mobile operators going south, there is an opportunity for mobile operators (who hold millions of customer demographic data) to work with research agencies who are better in collecting active data. Marrying the two will provide tremendous insight for clients. However, it’s easier said than done because some mobile operators themselves do not work in a holistic way in terms of organizing their subscribers’ data. Nevertheless, this is an opportunity for both mobile operators and research agencies to work for a win-win solution.
AR: Where do you see differences in mobile research in the US, Europe, and Asia?
JL: Asia is a very exciting market for mobile research providers, mainly due to the fact that Asia has the highest mobile subscription rates in the world. The sheer volume of mobile subscribers dwarfs North America and Europe combined.
The key differences between Asia and western markets such as Europe and North America is that in Asia, a large percentage of marketing research is still done using traditional methods (such as pen and paper) – which is ironic given the high mobile penetration rates.
The management culture within the client-side companies in Asia may also be a factor for the lower mobile research adoption rates. Nevertheless, as more and more businesses are exposed to new mobile research technology and methods, I’m convinced that their mind-sets will change given the clear benefits. Indeed, that’s the reason why we decided to bring the Market Research in the Mobile World conference to Asia so that local businesses can sample cutting-edge mobile technologies developed from around the world.
AR: Merlien Institute has organised various events in the research industry. What were the key insights from the first Mobile Market Research Conference in Asia (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), earlier this year?
JL: One of the key insights that emerged at MRMW Asia was the concept of integrating passive data with active data. For instance, researchers will have less need to ask demographic information if they can get the same data directly from respondents’ smartphones, extracted from their social media profiles or purchased from mobile operators.
The marriage of passive and active data will potentially provide powerful insights into consumer behaviour. However, making sense out of this “mashed data” will be a big challenge. The job term “Data Scientist” has been repeatedly mentioned throughout the MRMW Asia conference. My view is that, within the next 5 years, the specifications of a marketing researcher will change as the industry becomes more and more data-driven. This will have important implications for institutions that support the marketing research industry. Universities will need to alter their education curriculum to keep up with the changes and demands of the industry.
To summarise, mobile is not changing market research – mobile has changed research and will continue to act as a major change agent for the industry. Mobile is happening now, and leading researchers have long recognised that to stay ahead of the crowd, we need intelligent, innovative and different approaches to market research.
At the next MRMW North America conference that will be held in July 16-18 in Minneapolis, USA, we will take a closer look at how mobile has changed and is changing the overall research design and how new stakeholders like mobile operators and large internet companies are becoming part of the ecosystem.
About Jasper Lim
Jasper is the CEO of Merlien Institute, a young competent enterprise with a mission to efficiently respond to the information and networking needs of the social and marketing research industry. Prior to his current appointment, he worked as a Senior Researcher at the department of Technology, Policy and Management at Delft University in The Netherlands. He holds a Masters degree in Transportation management from University of Antwerp in Belgium and a Bacherlors in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Bradford University in the UK. Apart from his daily work, Jasper serves as an Editorial Board Member for the International Journal of Work Innovation and the International Telework Academy (ITA). He is also the Education Director for the Mobile Marketing Research Association (MMRA).