Sponsored feature

Greater insight: Mobile: the fast track to individual truth

The ubiquity of mobile use, and the proliferation of smartphones in particular, is driving a transformation in market research methodologies, helping brands to gain deeper, more accurate customer insight than ever.

Mobile was always going to be a game-changer. As it has swept to almost universal ownership among the population, with growing power in every handset, not only has it transformed communication, it is also transforming market research.

The TNS Mobile Life study shows that two-thirds of the UK population already carry a smartphone, and ownership is 60% or more in China, North America and the developed countries in Asia. Tablet ownership, meanwhile, is rising fast, and has already reached nearly a quarter of consumers in developed markets.

Although smartphones are mainly associated with the young – 85% of 22- to 30-year-olds in the UK have one – ownership spans the generations, including a majority of those in their 40s.

It is not just penetration that is remarkable. The mobile is part of life: a majority of the 38,000
people sampled worldwide for Mobile Life agreed with the statement that their mobile is "an extension of me – I feel lost without it".

Mobiles mean physical and emotional connection. As such, they are a game-changer for market research, giving us a fast track to individual truth. Modern market research needs to go beyond the search for the average. Averages make for poor brand profiles. Brands need more precise information if they are to fully understand how and when individuals make all those millions of purchase decisions, and market researchers need to evolve their own methodologies to enable them to do that.

Mobile has proved to be a new and effective tool in this search for individual truth. Its benefits can be summed up as the three Rs: relevance, reach and reality.


Asking questions via mobile fits respondents’ lives and lifestyles. The vital role that mobile is playing means that it is always there, always on. Smartphones and tablets are used from minute to minute to interact with the world.


Using mobile gives us the ability to collect data in locations and situations where a researcher would be out of place or risk affecting the research. It reaches people wherever they happen to be.


The respondent is reacting to the question in the instant, with much less time to work out why they think they made that decision, rather than why they really did.

In one recent example, TNS worked with Molson Coors. A sample of 150 lager-drinkers completed an online questionnaire about what influences them when ordering a drink at a bar – an area that conventional surveys would find hard to reach effectively or cost-effectively.

The results suggested price and special offers were most influential, with "well-known brand" in third place. The survey respondents mentioned, on average, just under four influences.

Participants then downloaded an app, which they used when they bought a beer to record why they chose a particular brand. The difference from what they said in response to the questionnaire was dramatic. On average, they cited only 1.4 main influences; "well-known brand" emerged well ahead of other factors.

Seeing this data, you can’t help but imagine yourself in the crowded bar, being jostled on all sides. The moment the barman’s attention falls on you, you feel that pressure to answer quickly: you remember the glance at the beer taps for a recognised name… this research method has really got us into the truth of the moment.

At the point of decision, it is reasonable to describe the brand as being like a life-raft, which consumers reach for as aid to and facilitator of an easy decision, and which acts as a proxy for both quality and price.

That’s simply one example of where mobile becomes one of the most logical ways to measure people’s true thought process at the point of browsing, choosing and purchasing. There are still so many other exciting ways in which smartphones will enable us to explore the complex issues facing researchers and to reimagine the way in which we carry out research.

All the way from the instant communication with the beer-drinker in the bar to being an integral part of the big-data revolution.

Will Goodhand is head of brand and communications at TNS UK

Personal philosophy
Appear normal where necessary, but, above all else, play to your passions.
My most bizarre "insight"
At ARF Great Mind Awards 2012, a presentation stated: 0.2% of people who "Like" a brand on Facebook ever return to that page.
I get my best insight from
being very open to the possibility of being surprised.
The most recent insight I’ve imparted
Most recently, it was an insight about insight… namely, that mobile research will get you remarkably powerful in-the-moment insights.


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer