Understanding micro-moments is key to mobile research

14 January 2019 | 3 min read | Written by Andrew Reid

When thinking about market research trends for 2019, many experts are quick to talk about AI, machine learning, automation and blockchain. These are definitely notable technologies, but one of the biggest opportunities is right under our noses.

I’m talking about micro-moments.

A couple of years ago, Google coined the term “micro-moments” to refer to those short, frequent sessions throughout the day when consumers turn to their mobile phones to finish a task, consume content, or get an answer. In any given day, people go through dozens, if not hundreds, of these moments. For me, it usually occurs when I’m in between meetings, and I check LinkedIn, Reddit and news apps to see what’s going on. It occurs when I text my wife or check Facebook Messenger while in a lineup to pay for my coffee. According to Google, 91% of smartphone users look up information on their smartphone while in the middle of a task.

The notion of micro-moments isn’t merely a trend. Rather it is a significant shift in consumer behavior that changes people’s expectations on how brands should engage.

Micro-moments are powerful because they command people’s attention. And yet the research industry isn’t doing enough yet to turn these moments into opportunities to engage consumers in a more authentic ways. Taking advantage of micro-moments isn’t just a matter of tweaking your research experience for mobile—it requires re-examining the way we conduct survey research.

Rethink the email survey

As an industry, we have come to rely on emails to recruit and reach respondents. But emails are rarely part of people’s micro-moments. Many people rarely check their inbox when they only have a few minutes with their smartphones. People associate emails with work or other serious matters. When people check their phones, they’re looking for something fun, informative or entertaining.

Many micro-moments throughout the day are spent communicating with friends and family, and increasingly these activities are happening through messaging apps. In the U.S. alone, 54% of people in the U.S. use Facebook Messenger on a daily basis. And yet messaging apps have largely been under-explored in the insights space as a way to engage customers.

In the U.S. alone, 54% of people in the U.S. use Facebook Messenger on a daily basis. 

As you look to 2019, look for ways you can reach customers in the channels they already hang out in. Diversifying from emails (and adding social media and messaging apps to the mix) will help you hear from a wider variety of customers.

Create scarcity

According to Google, micro-moments are “intent-rich” moments when people want to learn, discover, watch or buy something. These are short moments when people are looking to be entertained, educated, gain some social clout (by finding and sharing viral content first) and get a sense of accomplishment.

So that means anything that would take 5 to 10 minutes to finish is out of the question since people can’t finish these activities. This includes long surveys—something that many researchers are fond of sending. Mobile-first consumers don’t have the time to go through 30 to 40 questions while they are standing in line or waiting for the subway. No human does.

Anything that would take 5 to 10 minutes to finish is out of the question since people can’t finish these activities.

To entice people to give you some of their precious time, we have to create a bit of scarcity. Get people wanting more. Keep interactions engaging and brief.

Really, there isn’t any reason why you should be asking every single question you can think of. Many research platforms now allow you to invite people to subscribe to future activities or opt-in to your community. Take advantage of this functionality, and save other questions for future surveys.

The conversational imperative

Ultimately if we want people to spend their time participating in research, they have to get value out of it. It is my firm belief that this comes back to experience. The more we can mirror human conversations, the more people enjoy the experience, and the more likely companies will get authentic and honest insights. Mirror today’s chat culture in messaging apps: Send a message, interact, leave, return to pick up the conversation, and then repeat this process in short bursts.

The more we can mirror human conversations, the more people enjoy the experience, and the more likely companies will get authentic and honest insights. 

At Rival Technologies, we often challenge clients to rethink the respondent experience and make it truly conversational. Our clients send chat surveys through messaging apps, and these chats are often completed on mobile when people are in their micro-moments.

From what we’ve seen, simply copying your questions from your online surveys and pasting it into your chats is not a great strategy. You have to examine your approach from an entirely different lens—a conversational one—to make it appropriate and effective for the messaging channel. We often tell clients, “if you wouldn’t ask a person that way, then don’t ask it that way.” From the length of your chats to the way you use emojis, animated GIFs and videos, you need to reconsider the experience to make it truly mobile-first.


Figuring out how to be more relevant during your customers’ micro-moments is worth the effort. It will allow you to be part of your customers’ day-to-day lives. It elevates your interactions with customers from research to engagement. And ultimately, isn’t that the holy grail?

Note: A version of this article first appeared on the GreenBook blog

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Written by Andrew Reid

Andrew Reid is the founder and CEO of Rival Technologies, the pioneer and leader in conversational market research technology. He is also the founder of Alida, formerly called Vision Critical.

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