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May 10th, 2016

Understanding the Mobile Tech Adoption Curve

What are the new opportunities for live, in the moment, research approaches?

‎How can we predict the success and adoption curve of new mobile technology? Here are a couple of examples of how difficult it can be to get the timing right.

Mobile TV and Music

Then: Vodafone launched Mobile TV with top brands such as Sky, MTV and Disney and an all-you-can-consume music service in 2004. Less than 5% of enabled users were signed up after the second year.

Now: Who doesn’t access video on their mobile phone? YouTube, Facebook, BBC – all have a huge reach. Spotify, iTunes and Pandora are now mass market services on mobile devices.

Video Telephony

Then: Video Telephony was positioned as the killer 3G service in ‎2004 when it launched.

Now: Video is now commonly used whether it’s Skype, Facetime or Google Hangout.

Mobile Payments

Then: Google launched Google Wallet in 2011 and PayPal a retail payment service the same year‎. Google Wallet was replaced by Android Pay in 2015. ‎Apple launched Apple Pay in 2014.

Now: Neither of these services has had a breakthrough yet in terms of adoption. Most iPhone users try Apple Pay once and then go back to physical payment cards according to recent research by PYMTS.


Then: ‎In 2013, the first smartwatch was launched by Omate followed by Pebble, Samsung Galaxy Gear and Sony Smartwatch later the same year. The year after, Google launched the Android Wear platform with LG, Samsung and Motorola as launch partners. In September 2014, Apple announced that they would start to ship the Apple Watch in May the following year. 2015 was touted as the year of the smartwatch.

Now: Apple has sold 12 million devices which is more than the original iPhone for the first year. The total number of smartwatches sold is probably double this. Will smartwatches be on every person’s wrist within a few years?

How Can We Predict if and When Products and Services Will Catch On?

There are 4 key things to research:

  1. Understand the problem that the product/service is intended to solve
  2. Does the product/service really solve the problem?
  3. Is the technology ready?
  4. Propensity to buy the product/service at a certain price

Start-ups, corporates and consultants are really bad at predicting success. VCs with investors who are spending their own money and ‎research firms that are hired to give an impartial opinion do a lot better.

The problem, concept and price can be tested with relatively high certainty by market researchers while technology can usually not.

How Can We Use Mobile Technology to Research the Success of Mobile Products and Services?

First of all, mobile services should be tested on mobile devices, but too often they are not. Designer and researchers do most of the testing through desktop computers as this is perceived as easier.

Product feedback is at the center of mobility. Users expect to be able to rate and review every app they use and this feedback is critical to any mobile service success. This is also why app developers have become really good at manipulating the system.

Have you noticed how most apps ask if you like it after a few times of use? If the user says yes, then they will be sent to the app store to rate and review. If they say no, then it will bring up a different survey tool about how the service can be improved. Every attempt is made to avoid getting poor reviews on the app store.

Another key learning from this is that mobile research needs to be short and to the point. One or a few questions per page and split up longer surveys in multiple chunks. Virgin RED is a great example of how to do this, providing a three-question quiz with images every week to build up knowledge about the customers.

‎Try It out on a Real Product

Run through the last two examples given in the beginning of this article. When will mobile payments and smartwatches achieve mass market adoption?

Magnus Jern, President DMI International

Go here to see the presentation that I gave on this topic at the 2016 Market Research Summit.

Tags: insights Mobility Strategy trends

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