One of the most striking dichotomies of the MRMW11 conference were the two pools of participants: the Researchers and the Technologists. As I listened to their presentations and the way they talked about their efforts in the mobile research space, the old song by War, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” came to mind.
It’s pretty clear that Researchers and Technologists see mobile research through a different lens, and, at the end of the day both camps have a lot learn from each other, here’s my take:
What Researchers can learn from Technologists:
- Embrace technology faster. Some of the most telling comments I heard from the Technologists were related to their experiences in trying to partner with research firms versus end-clients. It’s pretty clear that they are finding a much more welcoming audience among end-clients and are finding research vendors to be the most reluctant and slow to embrace this technological shift.
- Be nimble: The Technologists are the epitome of agility. They are willing to quickly adapt their technology to meet the shifting needs and opportunities mobile offers from a research perspective. It’s a great lesson for the Researchers to learn, since they tend to err on the side of caution and evidence.
- Be aggressive: Due to the nature of venture capital and the consequence to quickly generate returns, the Technologists are aggressive about touting their capabilities and establishing a foothold with as many potential customers as possible. This “ready, fire, aim” mentality puts Researchers on the defensive with clients and creates opportunities for the Technologists.
What Technologists can learn from Researchers:
- Focus on substance, not style: Often the work of the Technologists seems really cool and exciting, but sometimes it’s sizzle without the steak. As an example, let’s look at integrating geolocation into a research app. While it seems intriguing to follow respondents’ shopping patterns as they go from store to store, no one has demonstrated a compelling way of quantitatively analyzing that kind of information. So, beyond being used as a small-scale qualitative exercise, passive geolocation tracking is a clever novelty without much true research value at this point.
- Think about ethics: One of the technology firms at MRMW11 demonstrated a nearly Orwell-ian vision of what a mobile research app could be. It was one that not only tracked where the consumer was, but the actual apps they were using, what sites they were visiting, and what search terms they used— all in real time. As I saw this, I was reminded of the moral of Jurassic Park: Just because you can clone a T-Rex doesn’t mean you should. To me, mobile technology offers us a similar challenge; and both Technologists and Researchers need to wrestle with the ethical implications of the research technology we create.
- Emphasize insights over data collection: When it comes down to it, research isn’t really about data— it’s about insights. While mobile data collection is an exciting new frontier for research, Technologists ultimately need to figure out how to deliver more than just raw findings. The true “win” for our industry will come from the ways in which mobile technology will yield unique glimpses into the minds and lives of consumers.
I’d love to know what you think.