“Hard to reach” may be the three most dangerous words in the consumer research vocabulary, because a consumer who can’t be reached is a consumer who can’t be understood. Marketing decision-makers deserve real, on-the-money insights drawn from reliable data obtained from actual consumers. But when outdated online sampling methods fail to represent Hispanics, African Americans and young adults, marketers have no choice but to resort to hunches and questionable inferences.
Accepting the myth that Hispanics and other groups are “hard to reach” isn’t just dangerous, but sad, because in today’s interconnected mobile world, no important consumer demographic should be hard to reach. If you’re having a hard time obtaining survey data and passive behavioral data from Hispanics, Millennials, African-American and Gen Z, it’s because online research is badly misaligned with today’s mobile-centric lifestyles.
A recent report from Pew Research Center clarifies why insights professionals wedded to online methodology have come to expect low participation from the so-called “hard to reach groups.”
- Only 60% of Hispanics and 66% of African-American adults (compared to 83% of whites) own a desktop or a laptop computer, the dominant devices for taking online surveys. It stacks the odds decisively against reaching a representative sample of an increasingly diverse U.S. population. Your chances grow dimmer still when you need to break out quotas such as age range, income and geography. The more granular your needs for understanding “hard to reach” consumers, the more compromised your data quality will be — until you get mobile right.
- Conversely, the reachability gap all but disappears when you reach out to consumers on their phones. Phone ownership is 77% for whites, 75% for Hispanics and 72% for African-Americans, and more than 90% for Millennials. Mobile survey methodology puts all these groups in reach.
- The average American adult spends 92% of time on smartphones using an app, according to Flurry Analytics, rather than connecting to the internet with a browser — the method required for “mobile optimized” surveys. In-app surveys align with the 92%, not the 8%.
The U.S. Census Bureau has reported on demographic trends that underscore how important it is to remove barriers to a full understanding of ethnic consumers.
- The Hispanic American population grew 2% in 2016, reaching 57.5 million.
- The African American population grew 1.2%, to 46.8 million.
- The non-Hispanic white population grew by an infinitesimal fraction – a 5,000-person increase from a base of 198 million.
As we consider how market research must change to provide a reliable representation of U.S. consumers, these data points speak for themselves. For a forward-looking conversation about how advanced mobile-app research can meet your immediate research needs and position you for the future, just get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For an illuminating video case study on how Anheuser-Busch used mobile-app geolocation studies to interview Hispanic beer shoppers just after they’d left a convenience store, just click here. And for a quick, entertaining video overview of mobile research, click here.