A Better Way to Find Out if Consumers Will Pay for Mobile Data

In the Hutong
Watching Pirates
1038 hrs.

Steve just sent me a release about a study Pyramid has just done asking wireless subscribers in Brazil, Russia, India, and China whether they would pay for wireless data services or not. Apparently the Russians will pay $4.23, the Indians $1.50, and the Brazilians and Chinese around $4.

It’s surveys like these that reenforce my belief that the vast majority of market research is meaningless.

The problem with asking a consumer whether they would use – and pay for – a service is that the consumer has no idea in his or her mind exactly what you’re talking about.

That’s like saying “would you pay for a digital cable system?” How can anyone answer that question signt unseen?

On the other hand, show a customer a sample of a service and ask “would you pay for this service” and “how much”, THEN you have research that can tell you something. You can even ask things like “why not” and “how would you change this?”

Say to a guy “look, if we could put real-time stock quotes of your portfolio onto your mobile screen, would you pay $5 per month for that? Here’s what it would look like on your phone and on this Motorola PDA phone. What do you think?”

Of course, that would require the folks at Pyramid, Jupiter, and the other research houses to actually do something more than cook up questions, find people to ask, crunch data, and turn out reports. Heaven forbid these esteemed houses change their vaunted and timeworn methodologies JUST to get a more realistic answer. I mean, why bother? All they REALLY want is headlines.

Now, because I’ve known some really smart people at these places, I’m going to take a flyer and assume that they’d really like a better way of doing research. I’m going to suggest several different possible services they can use in their surveys – or as starter material for their own ideas:

1. Real time stock portfolio

2. Real time share trading

3. Airport information and flight status – multiple flights or mini-flight board display

4. Official Airline Guide

5. M-Tickets for air, rail, bus, subway, and motion pictures.

6. Movie Guide/trailers/reviews/seat selection

7. Subscription radio, a’la WorldSpace, XM, etc.

8. Local yellow pages phone directory (consumer, business, and government)

9. Local white pages phone directory

10. GPS Navigator

11. Zagat Guide mobile edition

12. Fodors Guide Mobile Edition

13. Flightplanning for aviators

14. Graphic traffic information for drivers with suggested alternate routes and spoken direction using GPS.

15. Audiobooks

16. AutoToll function for toll roads

17. Home Check, the ability to check on the alarm status of your home, and possibly even see a video of your child.

18. Child-tracker, seeing at any time where your child is.

19. Printing for photos taken by the phone.

20. Ebay auction monitor function

21. Weather status, forecast, and severe weather tracker.

22. SportsDay, like Major League Baseball’s Gameday service online.

There you are gents. Some service ideas that you can take to the nearly 3 billion consumers in the BRIC countries. They may love them all. They may hate them all. But at least you’ll get some meaningful data.


About David Wolf

An adviser to corporations and organizations on strategy, communications, and public affairs, David Wolf has been working and living in Beijing since 1995, and now divides his time between China and California. He also serves as a policy and industry analyst focused on innovative and creative industries, a futurist, and an amateur historian.
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