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SSI KnowledgeLink– the People Issue

Mobile Research | Market Research in Africa


To understand Africa’s emerging markets, mobile research is undergoing a redesign

By, Emily C. Koenig, Quirk’s Content Editor

Africa contains some of the most rapidly growing economies on the planet. For companies looking to cater to these complex markets, traditional market research methods can be difficult and expensive to conduct, resulting in a data void that threatens to cripple strategic decision-making. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for a continent with over 1,500 spoken languages, mobile research is proving to be a tremendous tool for learning about and better engaging with these emerging markets.

The substantial growth of the mobile population is paving the way for easier access and better-quality data. While Internet connectivity and phone technology can vary greatly even within one country, mobile phones remain one communication constant researchers are beginning to rely on. “Amazingly, more people in the world have mobile phones than access to clean water or electricity,” says Steve Gutterman, president of GeoPoll, a company which runs a mobile surveying platform. In Africa there is about a 15 percent Internet penetration, 5-to-10 percent permanent home ownership and a 75 percent cell phone penetration.

Mobile phones are the most commonly used devices in emerging regions, used more often than laptops, PCs and tablets. The high penetration of mobile often offers researchers greater stability and longevity than even face-to-face market research. According to PewResearch Global’s 2014 report Emerging Nations Embrace Internet, Mobile Technology, which surveyed 24 emerging nations including parts of Africa, more than half of the populations own a cell phone. This can be partially attributed to the lack of landline connections, with countries such as Ghana and Kenya reporting as little as 1 percent of their populations having a working landline telephone in their home.

Mark Michelson, executive director of the Mobile Marketing Research Association, says data collected via mobile research is often the only method available other than face-to-face to reach people in emerging markets. While the general consensus is that mobile market research is not intended to replace traditional tracker studies or long surveys, it is an excellent method for providing continuous longitudinal survey data as well as a way to bring respondents closer to the researcher through voice, video and photos. But researchers can’t simply replicate traditional face-to-face methodology or even traditional mobile research on to mobile in these markets. Mobile research in Africa requires an entire redesign to work in the shorter form of mobile engagement and structural limitations.

Adapting Mobile Research Methodology

A good study design takes time, place and device type into account. Guy Rolfe, global head of mobile research practice for research firm Kantar, believes one of the biggest challenges surrounding mobile research in Africa falls down to the basic understanding of the devices used throughout the continent. While smartphones are still scarce, feature phones are dominant.

According to Rolfe, researchers tend to think of feature phones as the Nokia handsets popular in the earlier days of the cell phone. In actuality, a majority of feature phones are modern and often include a touchscreen but are limited in memory and often lack the power to run more complicated services or apps.

Unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) is emerging as a popular mobile research methodology in Africa due to low cost and local familiarity. USSD is a Global System for Mobile (GSM) communication technology that creates a text connection between a mobile phone and an application program in the network. A real-time connection is created only during the USSD session time, allowing a two-way exchange of sequenced data. Rolfe calls this an “African phenomenon” as USSD does not transcend to all emerging markets, as it is not feasible in India and difficult to scale in Latin America. SMS mobile research surveys are also readily available across Africa from a number of suppliers. Unfortunately both market research methods are limited to maximum character lengths. When adapting to this many researchers are redesigning the survey approach often with shorter and more frequent interactions via mobile.

Researchers must adapt methodology even further for areas with low literacy rates. Kellie Jakobie, director for consumer experiences in Africa at GFK, a global market research insight’s company, believes illiteracy is one of the biggest challenges. With literacy rates ranging from less than 30 percent in some areas to 85 percent in others it is important to know your target audience. Even those with a basic level of education may feel uncomfortable participating in mobile research studies or may participate inaccurately, Jakobie says. IVR is one option that has allowed market research studies to collect data that better represents many areas that USSD, GMS and mobile Web surveys would miss. In general IVR methods are easily adapted for basic and feature phone use.

While a large majority of mobile phones are second or third generation and do get more basic in rural areas, Michelson says the decrease in smartphone cost is predicted to continue bringing newer feature phones and smartphones into the marketplace.

Statistics provided by a mobile trend study published in May 2014 by On Device Research are in line with Michelson’s theory, showing mobile Web traffic growing around the globe, specifically in Africa. Even with a smaller penetration of smartphones, Africa is the leader in mobile Web browsing across the globe, with the percentage of page views coming from mobile devices climbing from 18 percent in 2013 to 38 percent in 2014 (the global average hit 25 percent in 2014).

With the cost of cell phone airtime being so high, incentives are still required in many cases to gather enough mobile research respondents. Providing free airtime and ensuring surveys are free to respondents are just two of the ways researchers can encourage market research survey-taking. Jakobie says that respondent participation is often high and even oversubscribed when popular incentives like airtime are used. Researchers may come across “serial respondents” who use several SIM cards to conduct multiple completes.

Obstacles for Mobile Research in Africa

As researchers prepare projects whose data-gathering is designed around an app or access to mobile Web, it is important to account for Internet access that is often expensive and slow. Poor network coverage provides a challenge, specifically in rural areas. Gareth Pearson, chief executive officer of BMI Research, recommends that all mobile research apps have on/off capabilities to allow respondents to work offline in the event of a network coverage outage. Studies should also consider rural respondent connectivity issues. Free Wi-Fi may not be readily available, requiring rural respondents to travel to a nearby town to find an access point. As this travel may only be done on a weekly basis, researchers must work with rural communities to understand general schedules, specifically when designing survey and study time-frames.

While Rolfe does not recommend relying solely on mobile Web and apps at this point, he does point out that apps have the ability to work effectively in Africa when they are built for Africa. Typical market research apps built for developed markets do not consider factors that are necessary for a feature phone, such as size requirements. In general, emerging market research apps should be less than 800KB in size and need to use compressed data.

Michelson believes that one of the keys to utilizing apps is in convincing panelists of the benefits of downloading the app itself and then continuing to engage them. Reaching people that primarily access the Web on a mobile device often requires creative recruiting. By creating a positive first engagement with respondents, researchers are able to develop not only a strong panel of mobile research respondents to draw from but a group of locals who are able to promote market research study participation. Especially when phone storage is limited and Internet connections are expensive, it is important for researchers to demonstrate that they value the time and opinions of respondents.

While mobile Web appears to be the way of the future, it is essential to incorporate other means of contact in order to avoid the smartphone user bias. If the right technique is not applied or if researchers do not fully understand their respondent target’s preferred mobile research method (such as USSD, SMS, IVR or mobile Web) the data quality will suffer.

Creating a Relevant Market Research Model

Many researchers note that the novelty value of mobile research is now deteriorating throughout Africa. Respondents are beginning to take mobile surveys for granted, but at the same time they are more interested than ever in sharing their opinions when they feel responses are of social or intrinsic value.

As government and social agencies such as the World Food Programme and the UN MY World survey turn to mobile market research to gather information, respondents’ participation is truly adding social value. Following a non-incentivized survey project aimed at gathering votes from people around the world on what they felt were the most important global issues, GeoPoll followed up and asked people why they responded. Many answers coming out of emerging countries involved statements such as, “Because I want my opinion to count,” and “To ensure good governance.” Gutterman found this study to be one of the most rewarding experiences and said that it showed him just how important it is to give populations a voice.

Achieving Success in Today’s Emerging Research Markets

SSI’s regional expert, Sylvain Rouri, Flavio Thome, Mani Padmanabhan and Jackie Lorch, discuss some of today’s fastest-growing research markets, and the keys to research success in these rising regions. You’ll learn about the demographic and economic forces driving rapid research growth in markets such as Turkey, Indonesia, India, Mexico and Brazil. As well as, essential information when planning research in these key markets and common mistakes and misunderstandings – and how to avoid them.

Bric & Beyond



To watch other past SSI Webinars head over to our learning center.

Best Online Survey Design Means High Quality Survey Respondents


Getting High-Quality Survey Respondents Means Having the Best Online Survey Design


For High-Quality Survey Respondents – Experience Matters

Survey experiences can run the gamut from positive to negative; with a host of reasons contributing to each of these experiences. Taking a closer look at what makes a respondent extremely satisfied with their survey experience is worth exploring. Obviously, researchers want respondents to have a pleasant experience, one that will prompt them to be fully engaged now and as a future participant.

Crafting the Best Online Survey Design

To get a better understanding of how respondents honestly feel about their personal survey experience, SSI examined responses from 600 respondents’ feedback. In addition to providing a rating, the respondents were asked why they gave the rating they did. Many respondents reported that the survey was easy, fast, relevant, interesting, intuitive, relatable, unique, and fun. These eight characteristics offer a snapshot of what makes the best online survey design and what made the survey experience a positive one. Additionally, the constructive feedback blatantly shows that people appreciate a swift and simplified survey process, as well as one that resonates with them on a personal level.

What High Quality Respondents Prefer

The best online survey design means having a connection to the survey respondent through thought provoking questions that are also informative and enlightening, should not be taken for granted or overlooked.

Finally, it is clear that the need to make each respondent feel like they are a valuable part of the experience, where they participate not just for tangible reasons is something that the industry needs address.

Goal: Best Online Survey Design = High Quality Survey Respondents

Having a greater awareness of what motivates human behavior will help in producing surveys that will secure high-quality survey respondents to call upon for future research studies. This is the ultimate goal.

Consumer Market Research | Survey Respondent Behavior


Survey Respondent Behavior in Consumer Market Research

Consumer Market Research Scientists continually strive to understand human behavior, and the motivation behind how they react to products and services. Survey respondents are imperative to gathering critical key data. How a respondent feels and what they think about their survey experience matters greatly and should be on the radar of both panel companies and researchers.  It seems surprising that many consumer market researchers pay so little regard to survey respondent behaviors and their motives as related to the overall survey-taking experience.

Positive Experience for Survey Respondents

Why is this so important? Mainly because research has shown that respondent-centric thinking produces stronger answers and more accurate data. Since a survey respondent spends much of their survey-taking time answering questions via the researcher, it becomes apparent that the consumer market researcher is quite influential in how a respondent performs. The researcher’s influence also extends the likelihood that the survey respondent will be a willing and eager participant in future projects.

Better Consumer Market Research Results

It is interesting to examine the differences between a respondent-centric questionnaire design, which offers survey respondents a greater number of choice versus a design that is more restrictive.  In an effort to get a better grasp on human behavior, SSI noted the distinctions in a test comparing these two survey designs. In one version, survey respondents were only allowed to provide a specific amount of answers while the other version did not have any limitations at all.  Interestingly, when people were instructed to provide three consumer brand names, they complied accordingly, resulting in a group average of 2.998 names. The group that had the freedom to provide as many or as little names as they desired yielded a total group average of 2.13. However, even though the first group provided more names, these names were brands that either they did not know or would not choose. Although the survey respondents who had free range with their answers had a lower collective average, their overall data was more precise, and more accurate consumer market research results.

Quality vs. Quantity

Having a better understanding of the unique dynamic between consumer market researchers and survey respondents will provide greater insight into the entire process, while helping to foster positive change.

ASAE Annual Blog


From August 9th through August 12th I had the pleasure of taking part in the ASAE annual conference in Nashville, TN.  ASAE stands for the American Society of Association Executives.  That’s right; the dedicated professionals who run the association you are a member of have an association of their own.

Walking through the enormous exhibition hall, which contained over 500 exhibits for the 5,000+ attendees, a lesson in conference exhibiting was on display.  The visual appeal of many of the booths was stunning and the giveaways were very generous.  Many of the exhibitors represented convention centers, cities, and popular hotel chains.  An attendee tried to sum it up simply for me “it is the conference for meeting planners”.   But it’s actually more than that.  The conference is attended by all types of executives within an association.

This conference is one of the most sought after conferences in the country.  A city hosting the conference sees it as an investment for potential future conference bids from a variety of associations.  Nashville lived up to its promise.  The new Music City Center was impressive, with large rooms, new features, and in a great location in downtown Nashville.  The conference organizers made sure to fill the evening events with performances from many famous Nashville singers (such as Dierks Bentley, Phil Vassar and even a special performance from Lady Antebellum for an additional fee).

But the real ASAE experience came during the day, when we were able to meet with conference attendees, attend learning labs, and visit the exhibition hall.  It was interesting to hear the common themes of our market research industry brought up within a different context.  Many of the presenters had done their own pieces of research.  They spoke of sample, base sizes, and representivity.  Not all of the presentations had research, but a good amount of them did.  Many of the challenges our industry faces were also common topics during the conference, such as big data, customer retention, and the shorter attention spans.

I had the pleasure of presenting alongside of Patrick Glaser from McKinley Advisors and Curtis Nunley, CAE from the American Society of Civil Engineers.  We presented on a joint piece of research that has been in the works for over a year.  The research included a MaxDiff exercise to uncover what benefits are truly important to business professionals when deciding whether or not to join an association.  When asked what one word comes to mind when they think of professional associations, our survey participants were most likely to say “networking”, but our MaxDiff exercise showed that “expert advice” mattered most to participants.   Curtis replicated this study among his association members and compared and contrasted the results during the presentation.  It was a great all around experience.

Viewership Survey | Mobile Marketing Surveys

World Cup Viewership Survey: Mobile Marketing is the Real Winner

World Cup Viewership Survey: Mobile Marketing is the Real Winner

Many recent news items have highlighted the record-breaking viewership that this years’ football World Cup delivered. ESPN and ABC saw viewership in the US grow almost 40% over the numbers four years ago, while Univision’s viewership grew 65%.

A viewership survey SSI fielded a month before the World Cup began signaled that a huge increase in viewership was likely.  The viewership survey, using the SSI blend online sample, asked respondents which previous World Cups they had watched and whether they intended to watch the 2014 event. 60% more people in the US said they planned to watch this year’s World Cup than said they had watched it in 2010.

Viewership Survey Results:

Viewership survey results

What does it mean for Mobile Marketing Surveys?

Univision has reported that among their Hispanic viewership football itself is not the only winner to come out of the World Cup – mobile is another big winner. 87% of Univision UCI’s World Cup traffic came from a mobile device, compared to 37% four years ago.  10 million viewers watched via live streaming, four times the number in 2010; and those viewers who live streamed spent an average of three hours watching the games that way.

Univision also noted that download numbers for their Deportes app made the mobile app the #1 free sports app in the Google Play Store for 12 consecutive days during the World Cup.

“Each of these insights reveals fast-paced momentum for all things mobile,” says Univision.

Mobile Marketing Surveys are a Necessity!

These viewership survey results are yet another signal that in order to access opinions from the largest and most diverse sample of the US population, especially the Hispanic population, questionnaires need to be made available to mobile respondents.