The Revolution Is Not Over

It’s 12 months (and a bit) since Mustard officially launched Pickles – the mobile qualitative research app. How time flies.

We launched Pickles to more effectively capture real-time, real-life insight from research participants. This was grounded in our belief (and plenty of evidence) that consumer behaviour (and consumer interaction with brands) has been forever changed by the proliferation of Smartphones. Furthermore, that these interactions will continue to change as new technology is adopted. The revolution is well underway, but is far from over.

To get a fresh read on consumer mobile behaviour, Mustard recently completed a survey with 400+ UK consumers. We posed a series of questions related to Smartphone usage and attitudes, and have been exploring the data for themes that have relevance for mobile qualitative research and our upcoming Pickles updates.

1. Consumers continue to use their mobiles in new ways.

We can be happy and confident that, when asking consumers (and clients!) to download our Pickles app to their Smartphones, we are not pushing people out of their comfort zones. Not only are they regularly downloading and deleting apps, they are beginning to engage with the newer technology. For example, within the previous month, 5% had used augmented reality on either a phone or tablet.

2. Plenty of people still use their phones for voice conversations. Equally, plenty of people do not!

Phones are still used by many people for the original purpose envisioned by AGB. Half (49%) said they phoned a friend (other than family) for a conversation within the last month. Which, of course, means half didn’t. So millions still do, and millions don’t make social voice calls. It would be lazy (and wrong) to assume the older generations make up the former, and the younger generations the latter. In fact, 57% of Gen Z’s and 55% of Millennials said they phoned a friend for a conversation within the last month, compared with 39% of Gen X’s and 43% of Baby Boomers. Don’t assume a generational divide. Don’t assume we can’t use mobile qualitative research just because the audience is older.

67% rather go without sex than phone

3. Maslow 2.0 – Food, Shelter, Phone, Sex.

In 1954 Maslow published the (in)famous hierarchy of needs model, with the core human biological and physical needs at the base of the pyramid – food, shelter, sex, etc. Our 2018 research suggests that the model needs a reboot and that, for some, the Smartphone has become a “basic need” far beyond being an enabler of safety, love and belonging, self-esteem, etc.  Two in three (67%) of our Gen Z sample said they would rather go a year without sex than a year without their phone (compared with 53% across the sample as a whole). A majority would also prefer to go a year without their phone (53%) than a year without holidays/weekends away (47%). Could you imagine a year without chocolate? Two in three (68%) of our sample can, saying they would rather go a year without chocolate than a year without their phone (32%) – rising to 78% of Gen Z’s. Phones are now an extension of the self. In designing any consultation programme, researchers should ignore this fact at their peril.

4. Consumers want more than words.

It’s an obvious truth, images and videos grab attention, engage and keep attention. Consumers are increasingly communicating through images and video – they read and watch, they share and they upload. Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr continue to show growth. Facebook has very recently added a video shortcut to its mobile app. Although Twitter’s growth is relatively slower, people are using it differently – more images, more videos, less <140 character stream-of-conscious. Our survey data supports the trend. A high proportion of Gen Z’s and Millennials say they have uploaded an image (photo) or video to social media at a restaurant (64%), at a pub / bar (55%), from public transport (49%), at a theme park (49%), at the supermarket (28%), at the cinema (27%), from the gym (24%), from a hospital (21%) and even from a funeral (7%). This has an important bearing on how we use research apps like Pickles. It is imperative we use visual stimulus to engage our participants, and they send us visual stimulus to engage our clients. We must avoid text only threads, discussions and chats. People are more inclined to take photos as evidence, or record video with an on-the-spot commentary to tell us how they’re feeling.

25% in 3 or more whatsapp group chats

5. Group chat is well established across demographics.

WhatsApp is quickly becoming a generic term along with the likes of Sellotape and Hoover, and joining Google as a techverb. On its way to becoming more than an app, more than a brand, for many WhatApp is the “go-to” for instant chat. Mustard considered the “best and worst bits” of WhatsApp in the development of Pickles, and by observing some of the core principles of group chat our app was conceived.

Two thirds (65%) of our research sample were regularly WhatsApp users and, again, it’s not just younger audiences. Half of Baby Boomers (51%) say they use WhatsApp compared with 76% of Gen Z’s and 73% of Millennials. Across the whole sample, one in four (25%) are currently active members of at least three WhatsApp groups, with no differences by gender. So again, by asking consumers to share thoughts and opinions through chat apps, we are not asking them to do something they wouldn’t be doing regardless.

6. We can’t leave our phones alone. 

It’s our alarm clock, it’s our news feed, it’s our gaming device, it’s our camera. It’s often the first thing we look at in the morning, and the last thing we look at in the evening. The Smartphone is with us all day, every day, and we’re using it even when we shouldn’t – 3% of our sample say they have used their Smartphone whilst driving in the last month, whilst 43% say they have seen other people using their Smartphones whilst driving in the last month.

So the evidence seems pretty irrefutable, mobile qualitative research is here to stay and it’s only going to grow. Since we launched Pickles last year, 12 of our clients have adopted it within their research programmes. This has included b2b as well as consumer audiences. It’s been used for pre-group “homework” tasks, real-time / real-life virtual accompanied shopping trips, live TV ad response, food diaries, shopping diaries, gripe-logs, product tests and more besides.

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