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Research that is mobile too, not just mobile-only

Is it ever acceptable for research to be online only or only mobile? Columinate investigated and found that providing freedom to choose is as important in research design as it is in life.
Research that is mobile too, not just mobile-only
A considerable amount of buzz has been circling around mobile research and the revolution that is predicted to come with it. Many companies specialising in mobile research have sprung up and, while some continue their mobile-only quest, many have changed their tune and now also subscribe to a "device-agnostic" approach - a term used to describe a research approach that is designed to work on any device the consumer is using.

Columinate has taken the device-agnostic route since its inception, as we are committed to ensuring that we put respondents at the heart of our engagements with them. Pushing a mobile-only survey or stating that "this survey only works on computers" is never an option for us. Ultimately, how a researcher's technology works should not be the respondent's problem. We prefer the catchphrase "digital" research - where all of our research engagements allow respondents to participate using their laptops, desktop PCs, tablets, smartphones and even certain feature phones. Intuitively we know that this mode of engagement is ultimately better, but just to make 100% sure, we conducted research on our research.

What did the research on our research find?

To test whether a device-agnostic approach allows for richer insights in an online insight community, an experimental research design was used. Recruited respondents were invited to take part in the online insight community and were randomly assigned to three comparable groups, namely: 1) taking part via mobile only, 2) taking part via a desktop PC/laptop only and 3) taking part using either mobile or desktop PC/laptop devices. Population matching was used to ensure that the groups had similar characteristics in terms of their basic demographics. Descriptive analysis and Chi-square tests were done to determine the effects of the device used on the quality of the data.

From this research we found that, for the most part, there was parity in the results. With regard to the dropout rates, the levels of participation and the number of words used throughout the community, there were no major differences between mobile-only users and desktop PC/laptop-only users. However, the biggest disparity was observed when comparing the insights obtained from respondents who had freedom of choice with regard to the device used versus those who were assigned to a specific device group. The group that was given the freedom to choose their own device showed much better quality responses and their responses were more detailed and granular. From the findings it became clear that respondents enjoy using different devices to complete tasks when taking part in online insight communities.

What this essentially tells one is that all research projects should be designed and managed with the respondent in mind. This can be done by using data-gathering platforms that are compatible across most common systems, to accommodate respondent preferences. By adopting this device-agnostic responsive design, digital marketing researchers will be able to gain better insights because they will be able to talk to consumers when they want to talk, involving them in a way they want to take part, using the devices they want to use. Forcing a methodology is much less effective and much more restrictive. There is no reason why an online survey cannot also be a mobile survey and vice versa. Adopting a device-agnostic approach leads to better research design as the respondent is placed at the heart of the research engagement. Columinate is a digital research company, so yes, our surveys are online but they are mobile too.

For more information on Columinate or to obtain our white paper on device-agnostic research, get in touch at or visit

About Columinate

Columinate is South Africa's specialist digital marketing research agency. We offer best-in-class research services (mobile and online) to a variety of blue-chip clients across different industries and continents. If you are looking for superior insights, get in touch for an obligation-free quotation. Contact us at or 011 782 7246. Please visit for more information on our services.

11 Nov 2015 10:11



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