Adapt or Die Part 1: It’s time for researchers in energy to embrace mobile

What do beepers, fax machines, and Nintendo Virtual Boys all have in common? They are technological innovations that initially seemed like societal game changers, but quickly became obsolete (some quicker than others, for sure). Smart phones, on the other hand, are different—they’re not going away anytime soon. We’re addicted to them and, like any drug, they affect how we experience and interact with the outside world. Need a ride? Tap a button. Need a date? Swipe right. And it’s not just our social lives that are changing. Studies have shown we’re bombarded by as many as 3,000 marketing messages a day—in addition to the information we willingly consume. So, how can survey researchers break through the static and get them to respond to our questions?

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

As survey researchers, we would be fools to ignore the technological trends around us as they relate to our work; we can’t just bury our heads in the sand, we must embrace societal evolution and adapt with it. And mobile technology is arguably the biggest elephant in the room we’ve seen since Al Gore invented the internet in the 90s. According to Qualtrics, one of the premier survey research data collection platforms, as of 2016, people are now more likely to complete a web survey on a mobile device than a traditional computer. This trend will have HUGE impacts on market research, so it’s time for researchers to channel their inner-millennial and get with the program. Simply put, internet surveys must be designed for a mobile audience.

“Dominate digital, or step aside for someone who will.”

That’s what Juliana Smith Holterhaus said at a survey research methodology conference I attended a month ago in Salt Lake City, and it stuck with me. One of the major themes from the conference was how to successfully collect quality data in our increasingly mobile world. You thought paper surveys were outdated? Well, we’re here to tell you traditional PC-based surveys are next on the chopping block. In the meantime, survey researchers must use a “mobile first” mindset and design surveys that provide a quality user experience on either a mobile device or a PC. Otherwise, you can kiss your response rates and data quality goodbye. The solution: make your surveys as easy to complete on a smart phone as humanly possible. In the coming weeks, I’ll talk a little more about how to do this and discuss the larger implications of trends like this. This is just one example of how we need to adapt to the new experience economy, in which consumers—not businesses—hold the power.