Behavioral Data Barometer: Interview with Roddy Knowles, Director of Mobile Research at Research Now

It's time for a new interview for the Behavioral Data Barometer!

We are happy to share our interview with Roddy Knowles, who serves as Director of Mobile Research at Research Now, where he champions how to (and how not to) leverage mobile technology to conduct market research. Research Now has been working with Wakoopa and is a global leader in digital data collection to power analytics and insights.

Interview with Roddy Knowles, Director of Mobile Research at Research Now


How has your experience with passive metering been in the past?

Illuminating – but a real challenge at the same time. Seeing first-hand how behavioral data generates massive and richly complex data sets that can drive powerful insights has inspired me to think about how to work with this data creatively. That said, grappling with the complications associated with collecting, processing, and delivering behavioral data has also kept me up at night on occasion.

Have the requirements for passive metering changed over the last years?

While in many ways the overarching requirements for behavioral data seem somewhat consistent, I have seen some changes in the way research projects involving behavioral data are structured. I see more clients embracing relatively short term engagements with a targeted group of participants (e.g. 3 months of tracking with new moms), whereas the bulk of interest a few years back was for longitudinal data with large groups in an attempt to represent a broader population. A desire for longitudinal data still exists too, of course.

How do you think the growing importance of mobile will affect passive measurement?

Mobile will continue to be the focus of passive measurement; that won’t change. I can foresee an increased role for mobile behavioral data as a viable alternative or supplement to survey research as researchers maintain keen interests in what people do on their mobile devices. As these ubiquitous devices become even more integral to daily life, asking people to recall their digital behavior with a high degree of accuracy becomes an increasingly tricky proposition.

How can we deal with the need for more mobile data in regards to a potential decreasing ability to passively collect data?

This is the big question! As you allude to, this is a battle on two fronts. First, technology providers need to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to keeping collection tech up to date with OS updates and other changes that affect data collection. Second, we can’t predict how governments and regulatory agencies will see and protect this type of data collection five – or even two – years down the road. If you are in the market research industry you need to be paying attention to conversations on data protection and privacy. Additionally, I think that the industry as a whole has an important role to play here to make sure both regulatory groups and the general public alike understand why we conduct market research and specifically how passive data collection fits into our field.

What is the most valuable insight that you were able to reveal with the help of passive metering?

One of the things that has always interested me – and I’ve been able to dig into with passive data – is the overlap of app and web usage within certain properties. For example, people will use the Amazon app and visit the website on the same device. Tracking these trends over time and across digital properties is fascinating. Additionally, being able to engage directly with people for whom such behavior is observed helps to tell the story about why an app was chosen for some tasks and web for others.

How do you see the future of (passive) research?

As I gaze into my crystal ball I see continued challenges on the regulatory and tech fronts, as we discussed, but I don’t see these as roadblocks for the future of passive data. I envision two roles for passive in the broader context of market research. First, as behavioral panels scale, the associated data will be used for digital behavior tracking and benchmarking, replacing some of the current methods of measuring consumer behavior. If you look around, these shifts have already begun. Second, I think that the way most researchers will see passive make its way into their tool kits will be through utilizing behavioral data in concert with other methodologies. With data being delivered in ways that researchers (not just data scientists) can make sense of, integrating behavioral data with other data sources will become easier. Savvy researchers will recognize how observing behavior to inform smart questions, whether that be in surveys, IDIs, bulletin boards etc. can fuel better research.