US Insights

Mobile surveys and open-ended questions DO mix

Stefan Kuegler

Director of Mobile and Online Research

Mobile 07.01.2015 / 16:40

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Lightspeed GMI data debunks a popular myth of market research

There is a feeling that mobile surveys make open-ended questions more difficult. Mobile is used mostly as a communications device - writing or texting is one of the main activities that we use it for. We see this behavior every day in the streets where everyone is writing to someone on their device regardless of it being a text, an email or social media post.

The main concern marketing researchers point to is the use of the keyboard for mobile and how small it is. Again, the behavior that we see with mobile users is that the keyboard is not really that difficult, particularly with the increase in screen size. It is quite easy to use.

This might be all well and good, but how does that really translate. What have we observed?

  1. First, thinking of the additional effort to get the keyboard showing on the mobile, etc. (not much, I grant you, but enough), would indicate that once you have it open then you are going to write something. With a PC keyboard, it is easier just to hit a bunch of keys and move on. The amount of nonsense answers with mobile reduces - from around 5-7% for PC to 1-3% for mobile. Also the rate of one-word answers is similar - around the 20% mark for positive responses and 30% for negative questions.
  2. Secondly, even the screen size does not seem to have a large impact on how much a respondent will type.  

Looking at the chart, although there are dips in some of the character counts especially for the smaller Samsung phones, they are still quite high overall. In some cases, we can see that mobile gives more character options than PC. We have seen this across many recent studies. Obviously, the question and the number of questions can impact how much (and thoughtfully) people respond. From the chart, you can also see the impact of the position of the open-ended question early or late in the survey. This is the same impact as for PC; therefore, it is not device-related.

Open-ended questions can still be a source of good information and rich data. We are seeing similar information on mobile devices as per PC and as mobile device become even more advanced or as people start to use the voice-to-text option we can expect even more information to come via mobile.

We do need to caution that the number (we recommend a limit of two per survey) and placement of open-ends can see diminishing returns in the comments people make as we have seen via PC. We need to make sure that we use the open-ended question to gain that extra insight and use them carefully and with good thought. Respondents like to express themselves; we see that through social media and messaging every day, so allow them to do it on surveys as well.

Source: Lightspeed

Editor's Notes

This post first appeared on the Lightspeed GMI blog on June 30, 2015. Journalists, for inquiries, contact us. Follow us @Kantar and sign up for our alerts.

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