The iPad’s Role in the Future of Marketing Research (Part 1)

By November 9, 2010Mobile, Surveys

The iPad and the Decline of the Paper Survey

Travis Santa (@TravisSanta1)

The marketing research industry has been waiting for a device like the iPad to put an end to the paper survey in face-to-face quantitative field research.  Researchers have long  bemoaned the paper survey for the amount of time and energy it takes to field a study and record the results.  And yet, paper surveys were still a necessary part of mall intercept marketing research.  That was, of course, before the iPad.  For market researchers, the iPad will likely be remembered as the point at which paper surveys were finally phased out of mall-intercept field research.

To be clear, paper-based surveys in marketing research have been on the decline for several years.  The advantages of the computer over paper are obvious, especially in today’s economy.

Until the iPad, the only aspect of market research where paper was the norm was mall intercepts.   Typically mall intercepts involve a research assistant with a clipboard and a stack of paper surveys walking vigorously around the mall asking shoppers if they would like to take part in a survey.  People are turned off by this type of survey.  For one, paper surveys are not especially fun to take.  Secondly, people don’t usually enjoy being asked questions by a stranger when they are shopping.  As a result, overall project time with paper surveys was lengthy and resource consuming. What field researchers needed was an engaging mobile computer device that removed the awkward and dull factors from the experience.

The iPad offers researchers all of the benefits of a computer-based survey in an appealing, engaging and portable package.    Research companies have been quick to realize the potential of the iPad when conducting this type of field research.  Touchstone Research, Inc., for example, recently conducted interviews in  several mall locations nationwide using the iPad.  Interviewers using the iPad in mall intercepts are noting response rates and completion rates increasing, attributable to the device’s “cool” factor and interactive question types.  People simply want to play with this new and much talked about device—if that means taking a survey, so be it.  The ability to incorporate different question types, like drag and drop, make the survey more enjoyable for the participant, who will be more likely to complete the interview.  In the fast-paced world of market research, these factors make the iPad an essential tool for any company conducting mall intercepts.

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