Read my reports from day one and day two of ESOMAR Congress 2011.

The final morning started with Ipsos and Lumi Mobile activating our Exobrain, as Scott Adams, author of the Dilbert cartoons, once called mobile phones. The presentation included a series of examples of how mobile platforms can create flexible and engaging research applications that can deliver data in real time and collect information within the right context, for example in-store when asking questions about shopping behaviour.

The next stages will see our Exobrain morph into a passive measurement device that also gathers our biological and neurological data via special built-in sensors.

More fun and games followed from GMI and Engage Research – their presentation reviewed the increasing gamification of surveys that has taken place over the past three or four years. Adding an element of fun to surveys clearly seems to deliver better participation and data. Games can turn the mundane task of filling in a questionnaire into quests and challenges; adding a competitive element (for example, giving respondents only a limited time to answer a question) elicits more data. But the authors also sounded a word of caution: while gaming versions of surveys work for almost everyone, the effects of the game mechanics can lead to new bias and some survey games have resulted in fairly chaotic data.

There was more on the application of neuroscience, this time from a team of Colombian researchers explaining how to unravel the impact of tobacco additions on information processing and why so many anti-smoking campaigns seemingly fail.

Finally, we were back to Behavioural Economics and its application to stop binge drinking. We think much less than we think we do, said the presentation team from Brainjuicer, but MR expects respondents to think analytically when explaining purchase decisions. A good example is the attempt by the British government to curb the aforementioned binge drinking: the current approach is based on classical economics by putting up prices and alcohol tax.

But BE would suggest more effective measures might be to ban payment by credit card, introduce table service in UK pubs (to make for a more relaxed atmosphere), have a more prominent display of soft drinks (which are often hidden away on the bottom shelf) and introduce more seating areas.

So what’s my final impression of Congress 2011?

It was encouraging to see so many joint presentations between research suppliers and their clients. It was equally encouraging to see so many smaller and specialist research agencies presenting – too many conferences and seminars are monopolised by the big global network companies these days.

There is increasing awareness of the benefits of gamification, which can lead to more engaged and involved respondents (but this can lead both to more and richer data as well as new biases).

MR needs to focus on more than just methodologies and techniques – many clients are looking for partnerships, faster project turn-around (in real time, if possible), more engaging presentation of research results and better communication of actionable insights.

The MR industry needs to demonstrate its value and willingness to innovate – hence the importance of developments in the field of BE, and neuroscience.

And finally, there is value for MR agencies in having a real presence in individual markets – “simply opening a virtual office is like sex on the telephone”, said one delegate, commenting on the question of where MR companies should open offices.

Browse all the papers from ESOMAR Congress 2011.