Mobile Phones Still Present Challenges for Market Research
A cool thing about the National Health Interview Survey (a gold standard survey conducted by the National Institutes of Health) is that it continuously tracks telephone access within the U.S. population. In particular, it tracks what type of access people have, which is essential for pollsters and researchers who need to find survey samples that represent the population.
Here is the latest data from 2021, showing that the vast majority of Americans no longer have landlines. They are entirely dependent on mobile phones:
What does this mean for research?
- If you want to conduct a phone survey, you ought to include cell phone dialing. This is expensive, difficult, and time consuming. But you cannot reach most Americans otherwise. Mostly, Versta Research does not advocate for phone surveys anymore, but some pollsters swear by them as the best way to reach representative samples. In addition, phone surveys are still the best way to conduct a survey in small, local geographies.
- Even if you bypass phone surveys and try to reach people online, many of them will take your survey on a phone. Therefore almost every online survey you do should be designed for mobile phone administration. Even in some B2B environments we are now seeing up to a third of survey respondents choosing to take surveys on phones.
It may seem obvious that with so many people taking surveys on mobile phones, surveys should be designed with mobile in mind. But if you take a lot of surveys or find yourself on a panel—even those run by the biggest firms in our industry—you might be surprised (and disappointed!) to learn that so many companies and platforms are still not doing it.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.