Why mobile research is evolving faster in the BRICs than the west

on Friday November 2, 2012 @ 2:01

Those interested in researching the increasingly wealthy group of consumers in BRIC nations, do not always have the luxury of choice when it comes to choosing a research methodology.  Traditional techniques can be costly, timely and sometimes not even possible, which is why the vast uptake of relatively cheap mobile devices and access to the mobile Internet, provides an interesting alternative for the research industry. 


Why traditional techniques won’t work in BRIC’s

Market Researchers in BRIC’s nations cannot simply apply the same techniques as they would do for western markets, in Brazil for example fear of violence is a real concern and it’s difficult to get inside people’s homes or stop them in the street for a face to face interview. 

Cost is also a big barrier for companies considering traditional research methodologies in BRIC nations.  It is extremely expensive in terms of travelling costs and the time spent trying to recruit panellists, as well as winning their trust so they will actually answer your questions.        

Online research doesn’t have the issues over personal safety, but is hampered by the fact that not everyone has access to expensive PC’s and laptops, but what they do have access to is mobile phones and this becoming an increasingly popular method for accessing the Internet.

In fact our own research shows that over a third of mobile users in China and Brazil only access the Internet through their mobile phone, a much cheaper alternative.  The data also demonstrates that ‘mobile only’ Internet is not just a trend in developing countries, but a worldwide trend that is likely to continue, positioning mobile as an essential and long term research alternative.

The introduction of the mobile phone and mobile internet

The high uptake of mobile phones in BRIC countries has had a profound impact on these economies and consumers lives, and in many ways they are ahead of developed nations in terms of innovation. 

Banking and retail is a good example, with many paying for goods, receiving wages, transferring money and carrying out m:commerce activities on their mobile phone.  As they do not have the physical infrastructure, their mobile use is born out of necessity as opposed to choice and convenience as it is in the developed world. 


As this personal device has become so integral to their lives, it makes it an excellent tool for answering surveys especially around their lifestyle habits.  They are more likely to be engaged, give accurate and honest responses and have a higher completion rate.

Connecting to the masses and the hard to reach

The mobile Internet also allows researchers to connect to a mass of people in BRIC nations, who they’ve never been able to reach before.  As BRIC’s economies grow, there is an increasing group of wealthy consumers who many companies in the west know nothing about.  This is essential information for any companies wishing to successfully export to these countries.

Mobile also makes it easier to connect with those living in rural areas, thanks to improved Internet infrastructure.  It also allows researchers to connect with younger consumers, typically a harder demographic to communicate with, which is also something researchers in the west have problems with.  

So what other lessons can the west learn from this mobile evolution?

Although at a slower pace the west is also moving towards a ‘mobile only’ Internet model, purely because it’s more convenient for people.  If researchers want to carry on conducting research over the Internet, they must also follow consumer trends and adopt the mobile research methodology.  

Apart from opening up communication to the masses, mobile research is also quick to return data, something that is lacking in more traditional techniques where the data quickly becomes out of date.  It is also a very cost effective research methodology, compared to traditional research.

Respondents are also more engaged as they are answering questions on a device very personal to them.  Mobile surveys are also shorter, with a maximum of 18 questions, therefore clients and agencies have to really think about the essential questions they want answering and can’t overload respondents which can hamper completion rates.   

Passengers using mobile phones on Tokyo subway

The market research industry in the west will always have more choices, as we just do not simply have the same problems as BRIC nations.  But choice sometimes blinds us to the most obvious solutions. 

An industry, who predominately is interested in consumer behaviour, should be researching consumers on the most relevant devices to them, which presently and for the foreseeable is the mobile device. 

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