Passive Analytics Filling Gaps in Market Research

Human memory might be fallible, but your smart phone never forgets.
Consumer behaviour has long been measured via surveys, but the new capabilities of mobile devices are allowing marketers to track people’s habits and tendencies passively, or in other words, without any conscious input. Survey Analytics, a vendor of survey and analytics software, has added a module into its flagship product that can tap into the real-time data of mobile users’ location, movement, battery status, type of Internet connection, and a dozen other metrics.
Running on Android and iOS devices and managed from the Survey Analytics backend, LifeMetrix can be useful to a range of different industries, says Dana Stanley, the company’s vice-president. In the health care sector, it could be used to measure a patient’s sleep patterns via a smart phone accelerometer, while retailers could use it to track use of their shopping apps versus those of their competitors.  And with some of the more unusual embedded smart phone sensors coming out, like a Geiger counter developed after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, the possibilities to expand its capabilities are almost limitless, he says.
While Stanley says passive data collection is a supplement — not a replacement — for user surveys, he says it can bridge the gap between forming and recalling new memories, a problem that has confounded market researchers for years. For example, recent studies have shown how difficult it is to get respondents to accurately recall their feelings at the time of a purchase, he says.
“We can’t really look at consumers’ minds as a sort of filing cabinet, where we can go back in and conveniently find the correct information all neatly filed away,” says Stanley. Sometimes, the question itself can lead people to invent false memories, he adds.
LifeMetrix digs deeper into the subtleties of user behaviour; for instance, market researchers can not only track somebody’s location, but which stores they visit after making their initial purchase, or their shopping habits during vacation periods or trips abroad.
Given the choice of whether or not to install it, Stanley says based on the company’s research, just over half of the people being surveyed will agree to this sort of passive tracking. Once consent is given, they can then be gathered into a cloud-based community, or as the company calls it, a panel. The data can then transmitted to the Survey Analytics platform, from which it can be exported to Excel and analyzed. The online survey data can be kept private or shared with other organizations using the platform.
As unnerving as it may be to some people to have their every movement tracked—literally—Stanley says consumers are becoming more accepting of the concept.“I think as the population ages out, that is, people who didn’t grow up with smart phones become represented less in the population, you’ll find that more and more people will not have a problem sharing their smart phone data. It seems to be a generational thing,” he says.

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