Pros and cons of mobile respondents in online quantitative research

There are pros and cons of having mobile respondents in online quantitative research. In other words, of allowing people to complete an online questionnaire on a Smartphone.

Preventing mobile access to your online surveys can be an effective way to improve the quality of the results. It may not always be appropriate, nor necessary. But often it will be. Why is this?

The main advantage of allowing or encouraging mobile access to an online survey is that it facilitates in-the-moment feedback. This thereby reduces potential memory problems.  It is also convenient for respondents, which may help with survey completion rates. This could be helpful if the available sample is limited, or if time is short.

But is in-the-moment feedback always better than feedback given at a later time?  You could argue that in some situations it is preferable to allow people time to reflect.  And is the convenience of respondents important, or even relevant? If you are offering an incentive, such as a prize draw, perhaps you should be able to insist that respondents take the survey on a computer or laptop.

Either way, it is certainly the case that being able to respond on a mobile is not appropriate for every survey. Generally speaking, you could say that mobile is fine for shorter questionnaires, and those with very few, if any, open-ended questions or grid questions, and with no images or videos.

When to prevent mobile access

But otherwise, it is often better for respondents to answer on a desktop, laptop or tablet. In particular, this is the case for surveys which include stimulus materials. This would include concept, advertising and pack tests, for example. It is just down to the fact that respondents need to be able to see the stimulus materials. And they may need to see several on the screen at the same time.

Whilst this might be less convenient for respondents, if they are members of a panel they will be receiving an incentive for taking part in the survey. Therefore their convenience is not really the issue.

How to prevent mobile access

But how do you prevent people accessing surveys via a mobile? The answer is in the software. With many online survey tools it is possible to detect the device on which a survey is being accessed, and so all that needs to happen is that those doing so via a Smartphone are shown a message asking them to log in via a computer or tablet instead, and preventing them from continuing further. It is just a matter of planning this in advance.