Could a Dynamic Geo-location Diary be the Right Solution for your Project?

By the Editors

Diary studies can help researchers to understand a variety of factors about consumer behavior and opinions that a single survey could never reveal. Instead of a single moment captured in a one-time survey, diary studies provide visibility into the ongoing perspectives of participants.

With an increase in smartphone and tablet usage, geo-location diary studies are becoming more and more feasible through mobile. They streamline data collection, improve the participant experience and give researchers more control over their data.

Understanding How Geo-location Studies Work
Imagine this: a coffee shop chain hires a market research agency to understand the long-term behaviors of their customers. Using a geo-location service, the company ties a diary study into unique visits to the store. After downloading an app, the user’s phone will ping the research platform when they enter the premises.

The user will receive a message briefly after they enter to ensure that they are there to purchase a coffee instead of just passing through. The system automatically records the date and time—as well as how long they remain in the shop. Users are prompted to answer a few questions into their virtual diary, which are then relayed to a server. Researchers can see information in real-time and adjust their strategy as required. This entire operation is powered by geo-location technology, which uses beacons to signal when a smartphone with sensors is in the area.

How Researchers Benefit from Choosing Mobile Diaries
There are several reasons that market researchers are choosing to incorporate mobile devices into their diary studies, including the following:

  • Automated data collection. Mobile devices can automate a significant amount of the data collection that would have once been a manual component of the participant experience. For example, the system can record the dates, the visit time and duration for any site that triggers a diary event. This ensures accuracy and reduces the amount of time that participants have to spend recording information.
  • Integrated user experience. A digital diary experience is often easier for participants to see through to completion. Many are already armed with a smartphone or tablet on their person, so they are not required to carry around a physical journal or other object to participate. It’s easier to complete the diary entries in the moment and as part of an existing workflow.
  • Improves the recruitment process. Recruitment is an important part of launching a successful diary study. Using geo-location technology makes it easier to recruit participants by making a case for simpler execution. It also ensures that no opportunity is missed to connect with survey participants.
  • Easier data integration and management. Entering, coding and analyzing data from diary studies can be a time-consuming process, depending on the volume of participants and the data submitted. Using a digital diary research data collection modality ensures easier data integration and management on the back end. This frees up your research team to focus on analysis and other high-value activities.

Three Research Considerations
As you construct a diary study, it’s important to consider whether a mobile model is right for you. There are two aspects that every researcher can look at more closely in order to determine if that is the case:

  • Is location important? Geo-location provides specific advantages related to location. For example, in the coffee shop case study participation in the diary study was related to location. A similar study that focused on the product usage—for example, feedback each time someone used a vacuum cleaner—would have a harder time leveraging location data as part of the study.
  • Does your population use mobile devices? Certain populations use mobile phones with more frequency and intensity than others. For example, Millennials and Gen Z users usually have access to a smartphone or tablet. Studies that focused on older users might not be able to take advantage of mobile devices. Determine if mobile device usage is the right fit for your sample group before choosing a geo-location format.

Diary studies can yield tremendous insights for researchers, but they’ve historically been challenging to recruit for and successfully complete as they require more work from participants. Today’s participants are more likely to participate in research that’s logistically easy to complete. By taking advantage of mobile devices and geo-location technology, researchers can more flexibly and successfully build diary studies into their research mix.