Posts Tagged 'Distracted Driving'

Going Mobile

There has been a critical trend happening in market research data collection that is getting little attention. If you are gathering data in online surveys and polls, chances are that most of your respondents are now answering your questionnaires on mobile devices.

This trend snuck up on us. Just three years ago we were advising clients that we were noticing that about 25% of respondents were answering on mobile devices. Of the last 10 projects we have completed, that percentage is now between 75% and 80%. (Our firm conducts a lot of research with younger respondents which likely skews this higher for us than other firms, but it remains the case mobile response has become the norm.)

Survey response tools have evolved considerably. Respondents initially used either the mail or provided responses to an interviewer on the other end of a clipboard. Then, people primarily answered surveys from a tethered land-line phone. The internet revolution made it possible to move data collection to a (stationary) computer. Now, respondents are choosing to answer on a device that is always with them and when and where they choose.

There are always “mode” effects in surveys – whereby the mode itself can influence results. However, the mode effects involved in mobile data collection has not been well-studied. We will sometimes compare mobile versus non-mobile respondents on a specific project, but in our data this is not a fair comparison because there is a self-selection that occurs. Our respondents can choose to respond either on a mobile device or on a desktop/laptop. If we see differences across modes it could simply be due to the nature of the choice respondents make and have little to do with the mode itself.

To study this properly, an experimental design would be needed – where respondents are randomly assigned to a mobile or desktop mode. After searching and asking around to the major panel companies, I wasn’t able to find any such studies that have been conducted.

That is a bit crazy – our respondents are providing data in a new and interesting fashion, and our industry has done little to study how that might influence the usefulness of the information we collect.

Here is what we do know. First, questionnaires do not look the same on mobile devices as they do on laptops. Most types of questions look similar, but grid-style questions look completely different.  Typically, on a mobile device respondents will see one item at a time and on a desktop they will see the entire list. This will create a greater response-set type bias on the desktop version. I’d say that this implies that a mode effect likely does occur and that it doesn’t vary in the same way across all types of questions you are asking.

Second, the limited real estate of a mobile device makes wordy questions and responses look terrible. Depending on the survey system you are using, a lengthy question can require both horizontal and vertical scrolling, almost guaranteeing that respondents won’t attend to it.

Our own anecdotal information suggests that mobile respondents will complete a questionnaire faster, are more likely to suspend the survey part-way, and provide less rich open-ended responses.

So, how can we guard against these mode effects? Well, in the absence of research-on-research that outlines their nature, we have a few suggestions:

  • First and foremost, we need to develop a “mobile-first” mentality when designing questionnaires. Design your questionnaire for mobile and adapt it as necessary for the desktop. This is likely opposite to what you are currently doing.
  • Mobile-first means minimizing wording and avoiding large grid-type questions. If you must use grids, use fewer scale points and keep the number of items to a minimum.
  • Visuals are tough … remember that you have a 5 or 6 inch display to work with when showing images. You are limited here.
  • Don’t expect much from open-ended questions. Open-ends on mobile have to be precisely worded and not vague. We often find that clients expect too much from open-ended responses.
  • Test the questionnaire on mobile. Most researchers who are designing and testing questionnaires are looking at a desktop/laptop screen all day long, and our natural tendency is to only test on a desktop. Start your testing on mobile and then move to the desktop.
  • Shorten your questionnaires. It seems likely that respondents will have more patience for lengthy surveys when they are taking them on stationary devices as opposed to devices that are with them at all (sometimes distracting) times.
  • Finally, educate respondents not to answer these surveys when they themselves are “mobile.” With the millions of invitations and questionnaires our industry is fulfilling, we need to be sure we aren’t distracting respondents while they are driving.

In the long run, as even more respondents choose mobile this won’t be a big issue. But, if you have a tracking study in place you should wonder if the movement to mobile is affecting your data in ways you aren’t anticipating.

Distracted Driving progress being made

Report shows decrease in distracted driving here

Happy to be a part of this effort!

Mobile Panels – Let’s Be Careful Out There!


Mobile panels provide an interesting new way to conduct research. While we have had the ability to have online questionnaires answered on mobile devices for some time, mobile panels allow us to “intercept” respondents at a specific place. While the panels available differ somewhat in their offering, the most common approach is to have a respondent download a mobile app and provide appropriate permissions. Then, a researcher can set up a “geo fence” – and when the device crosses this fence a survey invite can be delivered.

This opens up some interesting opportunities. We can intercept respondents when we know they are in a particular store. Or on a college campus.  Or at an event. Rather than rely on recall we can ask them what they are doing at a specific moment at a specific place.

Moreover, these services often allow us to link in various meta-data. Some of it can seem fairly big-brotherish. We can know how many texts or calls the person has made, where his/her phone has been, how often they use other apps such as social networking, news apps, etc. We can know what they have searched for online and where they have shopped.

The market research industry needs to tread lightly here, as even though from a legal standpoint respondents have provided permissions, from a practical standpoint they are unlikely to be aware that they just let the panel company track their every behavior.  It has the potential to backfire on the industry.

As an example, the Do Not Call Registry specifically exempts market research calls. However, consumers don’t seem to know this, and telephone refusal rates skyrocketed once the Registry was put in place. Something similar could happen with mobile panels, and the panel providers should only gather what is necessary and reasonable. Much of what they gather today is neither.

Crux is highly involved in a local campaign to help prevent distracted driving that occurs as a result of mobile device usage. This has made us hyper-sensitive to anything that might cause driving distractions, which is why, if you call us and we are in a car, we will not answer your call as a matter of corporate policy.

Mobile panel providers need to be sensitive to this issue. One piece of information they know about their respondents is the speed their phone is currently traveling at. Mobile providers need to code their apps so that if the receiving phone is traveling at more than a walking speed the survey invitation is not delivered. It needs to wait for a safer time.

There is not a client in the world that needs to have a respondent answer their survey while they are driving. There is not a respondent in the world that needs to take this risk. By not having this in their apps, mobile providers will be causing accidents and injuries.

There are literally millions of survey invitations being sent to mobile panels each year. The next time you speak with a provider of these services, ask them if they prevent their respondents from answering while driving. If not, insist that they do!

Hey Mom! Put down the phone!

Businessman balancing basketball on finger while working

Yesterday, American Baby and Safe Kids Worldwide released a poll of almost 2,400 mothers which showed, among other things, that 78% of moms admit to talking on the phone while driving with their children. 24% admit to texting when there are children in the car.

Do you think that nearly 4 out of 5 moms would be willing to drive with their children if they were legally drunk? Probably not. But, the reality is talking on a cell phone in a car is just as dangerous.

Using driving simulators, University of Utah psychologists have published academic studies showing that motorists who talk on cell phones are as impaired as drunken drivers – even if they are using a hands free phone.  The Utah studies indicate that cell phone users are 5.4 times more likely to get in an accident than undistracted drivers. The studies have shown this risk is about the same as for drivers with a 0.08 blood-alcohol level.  That is about the legal limit in most communities.

So … mom, if you are talking on the cell phone with your kid in the car, you are putting your child at about the same risk as if you drove legally drunk.

Texting while driving is even scarier. One study suggests that it is the risk equivalent of driving with a 0.16 blood-alcohol level.  That level would make standing up difficult let along driving. Yet, this latest poll shows that 1 in 4 moms are willing to text while driving with their children in the car.

At Crux Research, we are proud to be on a community-wide team put together by the Ad Council of Rochester that is hoping to address this issue. You can learn more about this effort at  We are sure to have many future blog postings on this effort and other issues surrounding distracted driving.

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