Tips For Conducting Text-Based Mobile Qualitative Research

by DJI

Here are a few things to keep in mind when conducting a research project using text-messaging via mobile phones.

1. People vary a lot in their technological capabilities. Even when they report being very familiar with texting, if they have not participated in a research project before, they may be “thrown” by some of the steps involved.  It’s possible to use a technology quite a lot for one thing, but not have a clue about how to use the same software or device for a slightly different task.  Therefore, we suggest:

  • Your research provider may need to recruit more participants than for a traditional, in-person project, as there are likely to be more drop-outs or incompletes.
  • Your moderator or her team will have to budget a bit of extra time for support, as some participants may need just a word or two of guidance to get them on track.  Investing extra time up front for personalized feedback will also reassure participants that there is a real live person out there, appreciating the efforts they are making.
  • The moderator should clearly describe all processes to participants.  For example, if a series of questions will be sent out at the same time, to be answered once the participant arrives at a store or event, with each question appearing from a different phone number, this should be explained in advance so that participants are not confused about what they see in their inbox.

2. Mobile participants are not in a neutral research context, they are in a life context!  Research buyers may be used to the freedom and discretion a moderator has, in a traditional focus group setting, to probe deeply and thoroughly to investigate a consumer reaction.  But when participants allow us, through their mobile devices, access into their personal lives, the context is altogether different.  Therefore, we suggest:

  • Lines of questioning that are more direct and process-based will be more productive.  Because of the distractions of the context, you likely won’t get the same sort of information that comes from in-depth probing or projective techniques.
  • When you can, encourage picture-taking to add depth and detail to responses.  Because participants tend to give shorter answers than they would via a pc-based bulletin-board type study, uploading photos can add lots of contextual information quickly and easily.
  • Be mindful of wake-up and bedtimes.  Questions should be sent out during normal business hours.  Because many people get notifications when a text comes in on their phone, an overly early or late text message can be alarming.