A few weeks back I attended the Market Research in the Mobile World conference in Minneapolis. This was the third in a series of North American conferences (there are events in Europe and Asia as well) that styles it self as “the original, premier event for the Mobile Market Research Industry.” I had been to the first event in Atlanta in 2011 as well as last year’s event in Cincinnati. I was in Minneapolis in part to represent ESOMAR on a panel, but also to find out what’s new with mobile. As it turns out, not much.
The style of this conference has always been somewhat frenetic. By my count there were 31 presentations over the two days. Presenters zipped on and off the stage without much time to think about what was said or connect the dots to draw a larger picture. And, as one would expect, many of the presenters were from new entrants who view the industry solely through the lens of mobile. So it was like assembling the elephant one piece at a time. And, of course, there were the sales pitches from the podium, most of which we have all heard countless times before. One good thing: the organizers have filtered out what Mark Michelson likes to call “the cowboys,” meaning companies organized principally to collect PII and sell mobile advertising rather than do research.
One of the more telling moments of this conference was Larry Gold’s ask for help in developing a better method for estimate mobile market research revenues. Larry is editor of Inside Research and is currently pegging the US spend on mobile at around $42M, a drop in the bucket for an $8B industry. He knows he’s not capturing what he calls “multimode,” meaning the portion of online surveys where respondents choose on their own to complete by mobile, people we increasingly refer to as “unintended mobile respondents.” But he also knows that he is missing all of the firms who only do mobile. This seemed like the obvious audience to help him out. Any ideas? Silence. What do you think the current spend really is? A few guesses ranging from $1M to $400M. I asked him the next day whether anyone had approached him with ideas. Nada.
Far and away the two best presentations of the conference were the bookends. Jeanine Bassett from General Mills (just down the road from the conference venue) opened the conference by describing her company’s migration to mobile, that first concrete evidence I have seen of a major client making an all-out commitment. She embraced a target of having 80% of their research on mobile by the end of 2014. Dan Foreman of Lumi Mobile closed the conference with a vision of the future of mobile that tried to pull all of the strands together in a way that described not just mobile, but a transformed industry.
Right now it is slow going. That’s something of a mystery given the penetration levels, not just of mobile phones but also of the mobile web. I have some thoughts on that but I’m saving them for the AMSRS Conference next month in Sydney.