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Mobile Surveys Shouldn’t Tax Panelists’ Data Limits


It’s no surprise that mobile users increasingly are turning on ad-blockers, but a new study by GlobalWebIndex digs into the reasons in some interesting ways.

The U.K.-based firm surveyed mobile users worldwide about whether they used ad-blockers, and why. More than a third said they had blocked ads, and an additional 40% said they were thinking of turning on a blocker.

Asked why they blocked ads, 40% to 50% said – as you’d expect – that advertising was intrusive, irrelevant, annoying or too omnipresent.

But not far behind were concerns about ads slowing smartphones’ performance and draining users’ monthly data allowances. Globally, more than a third gave those two reasons. Just under 30% of North American respondents cited data-allowance concerns.

How to Be the Answer, Not the Problem 

Taking consumer surveys with MFour’s Surveys on the Go® smartphone app is an ad-free experience — unless, of course, the point of the study is to elicit our panelists’ opinions on advertising that a client needs to test.

But the app also is engineered to avoid the device-performance issues – loss of speed and waste of data allotments – that GWI’s ad-blocker study identified.

SOTG is the only survey-taking app designed solely for mobile devices. It’s a “native app,” meaning the entire survey loads instantly into the respondent’s smartphone. Consequently, panelists can answer questions when they like, without being connected to the internet. Data is exchanged only at the start and finish of a survey, minimizing the drain on users’ allotments.

That is not the case with other mobile survey approaches.

How Bad Mobile is Like a Game of Digital Ping-Pong

As Chris Monahan, MFour’s Chief Technology Officer, explains it, the native app saves our million-member active panel from a data-draining game of digital ping-pong that other methods commonly require.

He draws a distinction between MFour’s all-mobile approach, which implants surveys directly into smartphones, and scattered, hybrid methods that require uninterrupted connections between the mobile device and the internet, where the survey questions actually are housed.

With hybridized mobile, each question has to be sent and responded to separately, in an ongoing sequence, until the survey is done. Data use mounts with each back-and-forth, question-by-question exchange between the respondent’s phone and the server that houses the survey. And each of those steps carries a risk that the internet connection will grow slow or drop out entirely, spoiling the experience for the respondent and increasing the likelihood that he or she will simply give up.

“A native app is the most efficient way when you’re talking about bandwidth,” Monahan said. “There are fewer exchanges, and more efficient exchanges.”

The smoother, more efficient survey-taking experience from Surveys on the Go® pays off in a superior response rate from an engaged panel. It has proven willing, time and again, to answer  long, complex surveys of 20 minutes or more, with a drop-off rate of 6% or less. Five minutes commonly is considered the limit for mobile questionnaires, but MFour’s state-of-the-art technology allows for a much higher ceiling without straining respondents’ patience.

Monahan agrees that many smartphone users have reason to be annoyed by unwanted advertising.  “But we’re absolutely not part of the problem.”

Giving our panelists a safe zone from ads, data waste and slow loading is a big part of MFour’s  commitment to treating them right.

Delivering a good experience to the nation’s only all-mobile panel translates into great results for our clients. Engaged panelists mean fast, demographically representative data that forms a reliable basis for insights that illuminate  marketing questions and pave the way for effective business decisions.