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The Importance of Geofencing Market Research Surveys

By Amy Eborall

Concept of Geofencing

Take a moment to stop and look around you… what do you see? A Smartphone? A tablet? Mobile is now the world we live in with around 82.8 million devices in the UK alone. Given ONS estimate the UK population to be around 65.1 million, that’s more mobile devices than toothbrushes!

As market researchers, it is to our advantage to make research participation easy and enjoyable. To keep up with changes in technology and accommodate consumer preferences, we continue to see a surge towards mobile market research.

Smartphones in particular have become a key focus in the market research world. They provide access to consumers anytime anywhere, offering a unique opportunity to capture in-the-moment feedback, and geofencing market research surveys is a great way to utilise this opportunity effectively.

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"Geofencing maximises the depth and accuracy of mobile market research surveys."

What is Geofencing?

A geofence is a virtual boundary or fence which surrounds a specific geographic location. The boundary is defined by using technology such as GPS or RFID (radio frequency identification).

When a location-enabled mobile device breaches one of these fences, a text, email or push notification through an App can be triggered. Not isolated to the market research industry, these notifications can also be sent from a vendor directly, offering discounts and encouraging consumers into their stores. In the research realm, you can send a specific survey invitation when a person enters, exits or even when they dwell in store for a defined period.

So, why is geofencing in market research surveys important? Below are the four reasons it is a must for any mobile researchers toolkit.

1. Real-time Feedback

Traditional market research methods, such as online surveys or phone interviews, rely heavily on the respondent’s memory of their experience. This can lead to questions surrounding the reliability of the data - memory leaves room for bias, respondents may focus more on their perceptions of the experience than the experience itself.

With geofencing, feedback is collected when it is fresh and clear in the mind of the consumer – you are collecting their thoughts in-the-moment rather than relying solely on memory. Ultimately, this gives you greater data accuracy and more insightful findings.

A few examples to consider… if you wanted to explore the motivations for a customer’s visit to your store, you could “ping” them when they enter. Or you could test reactions to an in-store promotional campaign – here, a notification whilst they’re browsing. Or you could “ping” them when they exit to explore the experience they’ve just encountered. All of these examples give you real-time data.

2. Automatic Context

With a traditional market research survey, you might include additional questions to identify the movements of the respondent, where they visited, estimated date and time of their visit and so on.

To receive a good response rate to a mobile survey, it is important keep questioning short and relevant. Geo-fencing automatically transmits the respondent’s location, saving you space in your survey to focus on experience questioning rather than gathering contextual data.

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"For a good mobile research survey response rate. keep questioning short and relevant."

3. Multi-location Performance

Following on from my last point, geofencing also allows you to test the authenticity of research responses i.e. GPS data confirms that the person completing the survey has definitely visited the location of interest.

This gives geofenced research even greater value, especially if you have multiple locations to gather feedback on. As an example, a retailer with multiple stores may want to identify their best and worst performing locations. Rather than relying on the respondent to recall the exact store they shopped in, geofencing each outlet would allow the retailer to flag the related data automatically and compare responses. They could even look at one location in isolation; ensuring responses collected are from a specific target audience rather than their entire customer base.

False Positives
It is important to be aware of false positives when geofencing your survey, i.e. those who are shown as being in the location of interest, but actually aren’t. The risk here is that these people are “pinged” with your survey and complete it without ever having visited the location you’re asking them about. This could happen if someone is travelling in close proximity to the geofence. SSI provides some useful tips for preventing false positives when using geofencing.

4. No Interviewer Bias

Using geofencing offers an alternative solution to the in-person interviewer who stands and waits for consumers to leave a location of interest. With geofencing technology, market researchers are able to automate task notifications on store exit as well as at any number of other customer journey stages.

This is not only more cost effective due to the time saved for the market researcher, but also reduces potential interviewer bias. Your respondent’s are likely to feel a greater sense of anonymity, leading to more accurate and honest feedback about their experience.

What are your experiences of geofencing in market research? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

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Amy Eborall FlexMR

Amy Eborall- Insight Manager

Personal Bio: A passionate researcher, Amy works across B2B, retail & media brands. She delivers end-to-end insight for our clients; from research design & moderation to data-driven reporting.
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