The use of mobile phones in consumer panel research
Van Staden, Jacobus Johannes
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A consumer research panel is a representative collection of individuals whose consumption habits are continually monitored by a marketing research company. It is designed to study the behaviour rather than the attitudes of consumers in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector. The analysed and interpreted reports help the retailer and manufacturing clients to better understand their markets and the changing dynamics within markets which are largely overseen by retail studies. It is shown that consumer research panels have a very high per panellist cost due to the nature of the data collection methodologies currently used being either very labour-intensive with the in-home interviewer visits, or due to the cost of the technology needed when using an in-home audit terminal to scan the barcode of items. The ubiquitous use of the mobile phone begs the question whether this technology, already in the hands of people, could be used as a data collection device. In 2007, Robert Adelmann demonstrated that it is possible to recognise linear barcodes using a mobile phone equipped with a camera and a barcode recognition algorithm. Three requirements are set for a mobile phone to be used as a data collection device in a consumer panel and are indicated by various studies researching each, focused on Gauteng, South Africa. The technology is shown to be quick and accurate enough to be used in everyday barcode scanning albeit not very prevalent among the responding sample. The data communication infrastructure needed to communicate the audited data was found to be 100% present although few of the respondents displayed their interest in joining a research panel based on mobile phones. It is, therefore, recommended that a phone-based consumer panel be used to supplement existing consumer panels to extend in hard-to-reach demographics like the upper-LSM households, and that the privacy and usage concerns raised by the respondents be addressed. It is also recommended that similar studies be conducted in developed economies where required mobile phone technology could be more prevalent.