To gain a foothold in the mobile engagement market, Confirmit, a global software provider of customer and employee feedback and market research, has acquired Vancouver, Canada-based Techneos Systems, a technology company specializing in mobile feedback, survey, and market research solutions.
Last year, Techneos powered the collection of more than 15 million mobile surveys and 6 million photos via mobile applications in 55 countries and in 200 languages across all major platforms, including iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Nokia, and Windows.
"One of the key questions we've been discussing is, how will the mobile evolution change the way businesses are performing surveys and how they are collecting feedback from their stakeholders? We believe that joining with Techneos is good for us because their domain expertise was superior to all others. They've been doing this for more than 10 years. The clients they are serving are lined up with what we are trying to achieve in the marketplace and the two markets we are trying to win—market research and Fortune 500 companies," says Confirmit’s president and CEO Henning Hansen.
Noting that worldwide adoption of smart phones is soaring, Dave King, executive vice president Confirmit Mobile Solutions, expects that 4 billion smartphones will be in use by 2015. "We're seeing 100 million mobile subscribers added in India alone each month. We're seeing tremendous penetration throughout the globe, particularly in emerging markets for smartphones. The marketplace has really exploded with the adoption of application-based solutions, which is what we have on mobile devices."
Pointing out that current research indicates that by mid 2014 there will be more mobile Internet users than desktop users, Henning says, "In some of these markets—definitely in the emerging markets, the Internet experience is a mobile experience. In the future, to get to those populations, if you want to ask them anything at all about anything you've got to go mobile."
About 18 months ago Confirmit noted a shift from brand companies that began to insist that their market research suppliers include mobile in their research methodology. "They felt that collecting data at the point of experience was mandatory to get a true perspective of what that respondent was experiencing and that the other methods, although still viable weren't able to deliver the insights that were actionable. When you see the big brands start to push the market research companies to include mobile, you realize they have made the decision that mobile has to be part of their methodology going forward," King says.
Pat Molloy, Confirmit's chief strategy officer, agrees that big brands are increasingly interested in capturing data in the form of photographs, videos, and audio clips that shows actual respondents in their real lives as they go about their daily business. "Research suggests a close customer relationship is absolutely key in a world where everybody is connected," he states.
Noting that there's been a disconnect from what people say when you ask them to recall an experience after an event, Molloy said the acquisition of Techneos Systems will enable organizations to ask respondents what they are feeling "in the moment." "Getting them right there is a problem that does exist and can't be solved in any other way. That's why we believe this acquisition will open up new opportunities," Molloy asserts.
King adds that the apps are sophisticated enough to send out alarms, alerts, and notices to people to advise them it's time to provide feedback, whether it's taking a picture, video tape, or audio clip. "It becomes a two-way engagement. You are not just asking a question and expecting them to passively provide a response. You are engaging with the respondent and they are more likely to provide true insights as to what they are experiencing. Coca-Cola wants to know where their brand is being exposed and how people are consuming it. They don't want people to count on recall at the end of the day or week. We are seeing that the insights being captured, specifically because of mobile, are changing the research findings delivered to these big brands. This has the potential to be a game changer in some very significant ways," King says.
Molloy insists that mobile technologies will enhance the quality of customer feedback because the methodology design causes respondents to choose to engage as opposed to feeling as though they are being interrupted. "They get to choose on their own terms. It's designed so it's exciting. We use touch screens, tablets, animation, and modicums. We are finding the compliance rates as high as 90 percent," Molloy asserts.
So how does customer feedback from the combined Confirmit/Techneos solution compare to feedback from social media monitoring? "If you look at Twitter and Facebook traffic a lot of that [traffic] is generated on mobile devices. There's a camp that says you don't really need to ask anyone questions—all you need to do is listen to what's going on in social media and do something clever with that noise and you'll figure out what your customers are saying and thinking about your brand. The jury is out on that. There is definitely value in that. It's very complementary to the kind of value you get from asking a known population or known respondents specific questions. You need both," Hansen says.
Organizations that choose to get feedback from customers using mobile devices stand to profit in the future, especially those trying to reach hard-to-reach demographic groups such as the U.S. Latino population. "If you look at the adoption rate of smartphones, Latinos are at the top of the demographic list in the U.S.," Molloy says.
Small and midsized firms are also poised to benefit from mobile capabilities. "We are fielding studies with as few as 49 or 70 people and delivering some very exciting insights for them that weren’t available to them before. It can be fielded quickly and they can get qualitative insights, which include multimedia capabilities that they didn't have available before," King states.
King provided details of a case study of a major beverage brand that found value in gaining feedback from mobile technology to penetrate emerging markets. The company was facing challenges with credible information as to the distribution network in those markets. "They engaged a mobile solution with 400 interviewers to profile the market from a route-to-market perspective to identify all of the locations where they might sell their product—to take pictures of the store, interview the proprietor, complete a store audit, and take a GPS coordinate. With that information, they are going to go back to their salesforce and deploy them in that market to sell more products. That's a significant enterprise that saw the value in the implementation of mobile well beyond research," King concludes.
Finally, Hansen concludes, "The same imperative exists for the world outside market research—if not to a greater degree. We know from some of our existing corporate customers, some of our big retailer customers, and newspaper customers that their audiences are mobile now. They want to engage with those audiences and sell them additional products and services and they also want to talk to them about the service and products experience they've had. They are interested in doing that in a variety of ways, including and increasingly on a mobile platform. It's absolutely crucial to them."