December 04, 2007
How To

Mobile Surveys Show Higher Response Rates, Lower Costs: 12 Strategies & Creative Tips

SUMMARY: Mobile-market research surveys and polls can achieve response rates that are at least five times higher than online questions and face-to-face interviews. And at less cost.

Here are 12 strategies for using text messaging and WAP to conduct a more effective mobile-marketing survey. Plus, a plethora of tips on design, copywriting and metrics for your survey or poll.
Industry consensus suggests that mobile-marketing surveys and polls are potentially the most powerful research tool out there today. They can combat the decline in response rates that other research methods are suffering. With response rates at least five times higher, this type of research is going to become more prevalent.

“The reason it is going to become more important is because it is becoming increasingly more difficult to contact people through other ways,” says Mark Cameron, President, Techneos Systems.

By using text messages (SMS), MMS (the multimedia version of text messaging) and WAP (sometimes referred to as the mobile Internet), researchers can gain more timely, accurate, personal and expedient insight.

Why Use Mobile Surveys?
Most traditional surveys take place after an event happens. Mobile devices, such as standard cell phone handsets, PDAs and smartphones, can give marketers information about their customers while an event is occurring -- at a business conference or sporting event or while a consumer is using a product at one moment and over a period of time (e.g., diary research).

Mobile surveys and polls also can help you build and enhance customer (or even employee) relationships, while improving your understanding of their needs. You can get to know customers’ attitudes and habits when and where it is most relevant. It also improves regular customer communication and interaction with you.

A mobile survey also is an efficient and effective way to measure brand awareness or customer satisfaction. It complements other types of research without replacing them altogether.

Conduct a Mobile Survey or Poll: 12 Strategies
We’ve put together 12 strategies for planning and conducting a successful mobile survey or poll. A survey is usually much longer than a poll, but the terms are often used interchangeably because most mobile surveys are polls.

-> Strategy #1. Decide if a mobile survey is right for you

First, you must decide if mobile research is right for you. Use mobile only when:
- You need immediate results.
- You want to ask a limited number of questions.
- You need more accurate and personal responses.
- It can be conducted away from a desk (one-person interaction using a mobile device).

-> Strategy #2. Define your objectives

As with any other marketing campaign, you need to ask yourself: What do I want to achieve, and what outcomes and deliverables do I want? It could be more leads or improving customer awareness of your brand and its offerings.

Defining objectives also establishes the profile of your audience and the quantification necessary to measure whether you achieved your objectives.

-> Strategy #3. Develop your plan of action

Think about how you are going to conduct and design the survey. This process considers issues, including:
o Type of questioning to be used
o Content and value-added content
o Demographics of the audience
o What defines the call to action
o Budgetary requirements
o Whether you are going to recruit a panel
o Whether you need to hire a consultant to analyze the results.

-> Strategy #4. Choose the right technology for the job

Select the appropriate media for targeting your audience (e.g., SMS, MMS, WAP, online research with PCs or a combination of media). This mainly depends on the type of questions you want to ask and what answers you want to receive. More on this later.

-> Strategy #5. Put your respondents first

Your respondents’ insights and feedback are top priority. Alienating them is counter-productive. They might not participate in future polls, and your marketing team needs them to keep coming back.

Consider the following:
- Ask for personal details and demographics only once and store them to build up profile over time.
- Remember that a mobile respondent is different than a stationary one using, for example, a PC.
- Understand how much it costs them to participate in your poll or survey.

-> Strategy #6. Assess the costs

Costs vary across the industry, depending on where customers are located and the type of poll. Much depends on the vendor, the type of technology used to deliver the questionnaire, whether a customer panel is employed, how many responses are required, how big your contact list is and so forth.

For a survey with 1,000 respondents, the costs range from $1,000 to more than $50,000, with incentives ranging from 25 cents to $10 per completion, according to Kirk Hendrickson, MarketTool’s Director Product Management - Zoomerang and Mobile Products. Costs might include access to a mobile polling tool.

Asit Sharma, CEO and Founder, Applied Living Technologies, recommends a client fee of around $6 to $10 per response, rather than a charge based on the number of questions asked.

Respondents should not be charged for participating in a poll or survey, although they often have to pay their network provider’s charges for sending SMSs and using WAP to answer the questions. Incentives are vital, so find out which incentives will encourage and reward them for participating in a poll.

You will also need to:
- Protect their identities, personal data and be non-intrusive.
- Remember that you may need to educate your customers.
- Be respectful of their time.

-> Strategy #7. Let your respondents choose the channel

Provide poll-takers with other options to respond to your questions. Cell phones and mobile devices generally are but one option.

-> Strategy #8. Plan the survey or poll and test it

Begin by understanding your research objectives. Then, plan the navigation flow from page to page with the user (respondent) in mind.

Drop-down boxes and radial buttons are best suited for mobile polls. Multiple-level questions can be asked if WAP is used, but SMS polls are usually limited to one question and response at a time. Consider the complexities behind each poll or survey and where you want the user to go based on his or her choices.

You need to:
- Avoid repeating questions.
- Limit a poll to no more than three minutes.
- Create an effective call to action: the follow-up after a poll is completed.

A call to action could involve fulfilling the offer of an incentive (a voucher, a discount on a product using a mobile coupon, additional call time minutes or arranging an appointment for a business-to-business customer ).

Also, walk before you run -- test your poll or survey thoroughly.

- Use your poll first on a small target audience before inviting a wider audience to answer the poll. A good sample size is 5% to 10% of your target audience.
- Make adjustments based on what you learn.

-> Strategy #9. Develop a customer panel

Customer panels are effective. They can increase the potential for attaining higher response rates because they’ve already agreed to participate in your research. Consider whether you can develop an in-house customer panel or whether it’s better to hire a customer panel company.

-> Strategy #10. Integrate mobile surveys into your communications plan

Don’t just rely on one channel to opt in your customers, use those that are relevant to them.

This involves the fulfilment of incentives, the analysis of the results in terms of achieving the deliverables and creating reports. The analysis will help you to build your approach for future campaigns (content, style, information sought, questions, etc.)

You may want to follow up on the survey too; either to gain further feedback or as part of a sales process. The aim is to “build continual and consistent communication,” says Sharma.

-> Strategy #11. Make the experience rewarding and memorable

Make your survey interesting, entertaining and fun because you may want them to help you again in the future.

You do this by:
- Making sure the content of the poll is relevant to your target audience.
- Using multimedia content where it enhances the experience and the results.
- Giving the proper incentives.

Incentives are about providing instant gratification and depend on the profile of your audience. The 18-25-year-old group likes a discount off their cell phone bill or more airtime minutes.

“Our consumers are incentivized for each poll they do. The incentives include Paypal credit, points to charity, gift vouchers, various products, catalogs and electronic goods,” says Ralph Risk, Marketing Manager, Lightspeed Research.

-> Strategy #12. Be aware of legal obligations

Understand your legal obligations for each customer in each country. In the US, for example, you can’t simply send an SMS to a customer. You need to get them to send a text message using a shortcode advertised on billboards, on products, on TV or radio and in other media.

When you’re building a customer panel from scratch, it’s best practice to use a double opt-in. In other words, even though they may have opted in once by using a shortcode in an SMS, entering details into an online form, or through other means and channels, it’s courteous to ask customers again to opt in to participate in a poll.

This builds better customer relationships. It also can increase the value of the experience, and it can have a positive impact on your brand.

It is imperative that you fulfill any offers you promise customers. Be aware of any country-specific laws, for example, that relate to running and organizing prize-drawings.

Where a mobile coupon is sent to a customer, its redemption might require them to show the text message to someone at a checkout. This practice is increasingly accepted. Alternatively, credit or airtime minutes may be added to a customer’s cell phone account.

Two good starting points:
- Follow the Mobile Marketing Association’s guidelines (see hotlink below)
- Determine data ownership and/or develop a data policy.

Design & Copywriting
Brevity is the best policy for mobile surveys and polls. It’s more difficult to navigate around the screen of a mobile device than on a PC, so you need to keep it simple and quick. Don’t ask too many open questions; respondents won’t complete the survey. Consider how respondents will interact with the mobile device from the ground up.

Start by limiting the number of questions.
- The optimal number of questions is five for SMS polls and surveys for ad hoc respondents and 10 for those in a customer panel.
- WAP is better for longer mobile polls; respondents will complete 8-15 questions.
- Make sure the questions are more concise than those for online surveys. Most text messages can only cope with 160 characters.
- Long surveys, replicating online survey formats on PCs, will increase abandonment rates.

Be careful when using images within the survey; download speeds can still be quite slow.

Consumers don’t like to download applications with some exceptions (wallpapers, ring tones and the like) unless it comes from a trusted source with a good reason or incentive to do so.

Don’t use grids; mobile screens are too small and too difficult to navigate.

Measuring Response & Typical Response Rates
Choose your metrics based on the type and purpose of the study. You might want to measure, for example, how attitudes about a product have changed, if awareness of a type of brand has increased, if sales leads or sales show an increase.

Typically, email marketing gives a 5% to 15% response rate. But up to 50% of respondents are likely to complete a mobile poll. (See our two examples below.)

Results are typically gauged with reports. Figures can be exported into a spreadsheet; graphs and reports can be created depending on their use. Vendors usually leave this up to their clients.

You also need to consider the quality of information and response rates that you are looking for. Analyze the outcomes of each poll as part of an ongoing improvement process.

Mobile Usage: Stats
The potential for mobile market research is widening. Mobile penetration varies for each country. In the UK, for instance, more than 90% of consumers own at least one handset.

According to recent M:Metrics data:
- 87% of mobile phones are Internet-enabled in the United States.
- 17% of consumers use a mobile device to access the Internet, an increase of 20% between January 2006 and September 2007. (See hotlink below for more statistics.)

“Text messaging is regularly used by 40% of US cell phone subscribers and at far higher rates in Europe,” says Hendrickson.

As you see in the examples below, young people are the most responsive audience and the most comfortable with mobile technology. You might want to poll the 18-25 age group first and then the 26-45 year olds. Much depends on your target audience, the type of survey and its objectives.

-> Example #1. Lightspeed Research
Lightspeed Research conducted a survey during the halftime of a European Champions League soccer match in May 2007. Within 15 minutes of going live, the marketing team received 60% of the completed surveys and 90% after an hour.

The research team found that 50% of all mobile users who responded were watching the game. 21% were watching it in a bar or at a friend’s house. The highest response rate was within the 18-25 age range.

-> Example #2. First Tuesday
First Tuesday organized a conference in the Czech Republic and surveyed their 100-plus delegates. Overall results were similar. The survey also obtained a 40% response rate and discovered a new way of communicating with the conference’s attendees. (See sample questions from the event in the hotlink below.)

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from mobile surveys:

Mobile resources -

Lightspeed Research:

M:metrics Mobile Market Measurement - Survey of Mobile Subscribers:

Mobile Marketing Association’s Consumer Best Practices (United States):

Mobile Marketing Association’s Code of Conduct for Mobile Marketing (Global):

Mobile technology vendors -

Business by Mobile:

Embrace Mobile:



Techneos Systems Inc.:

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