By Heidi Dietzsch

As smartphones have changed our lives in a myriad of ways, so have they influenced market research.

Data collection through smartphones can supplement more traditional research methods, but it is also a significant methodology in its own right. Due to their ubiquity, smartphones are able to reach extensive, globalised audiences. In 2017 it was estimated that there were 2.32-billion smartphone users worldwide and that this number will increase to 2.87-billion by 2020. In South Africa there were 18.48-million smartphone users last year and it is expected that there will be more than 25 million users by 2022. In May 2015, Google announced that, for the first time, more searches are coming from mobile phones than from desktop computers.

Smartphones are our primary source of contact, information and social interaction. That is true for business people as well as general consumers – although the indigent would probably not have one and researchers need to take that into account. An estimated 30% to 40% of all online surveys are completed on a mobile device and that percentage is growing. Therefore, if you want respondents to participate in your survey, you’re going to have to make sure they can take it on a smartphone.

One of the biggest advantages of smartphone research is that it is convenient and easy to use. Smartphone surveys can be completed from just about anywhere, anytime. Survey fatigue is one of the most predominant problems in market research. The slight effort needed to participate with a smartphone that is already in someone’s hand can persuade even the most unenthusiastic respondent to respond positively.

With the help of smartphones, ethnographic research can be conducted without having a researcher in the same environment as respondents. For example, respondents can fill in a daily blog or journal or upload photos, videos and audio recordings, while reporting their feelings and experiences at the moment of interest. In this way, businesses can discover a great deal regarding consumers’ daily habits and responses to their products. Respondents are also likely to feel relaxed when carrying out these everyday, freeform activities, leading to authentic and insightful feedback.

It is inconceivable for mystery shopping being conducted without smartphones. Mystery shoppers need to notice a variety of things during their excursions, such as the amount of time spent in a queue, the number of people in a shop and the attitude of a shop assistant. Smartphones provide an easy way for mystery shoppers to record the key points in a discrete manner so that they don’t have to rely on memory – or write notes, which can look suspicious. Using technology in this way provides a more accurate result for the client and a less onerous task for the mystery shopper.

Smartphone data collection guarantees more context – respondents can, for instance, report on the atmosphere, the weather and the look and feel of their immediate surroundings. Findings can be recorded at the time and place respondents interact, encounter, participate and experience. Live commentary can be collected from people who have just purchased a certain product, also allowing the capturing of more volatile facts such as emotions, moods and sensory impressions as opposed to perceptions based on memory. According to Gartner Research, immediate feedback is 40% more accurate than recall-based feedback.

Another advantage of smartphone research is the GPS technology it offers. This enables researchers to invite respondents to participate in a survey based on their location. For instance, a business can send people a survey when they are near a particular business being targeted, a transport hub or some other location where feedback might be required. This way targeted people will find the content of the survey relevant, which increases the chances of them completing it.

Despite all the advantages that smartphone research offers, it also has some challenges. Data might be skewed due to wireless network availability that differs from area to area. For instance, network services are usually better in cities, which means that responses from rural inhabitants might be limited. Also, many low-income earners and the unemployed might not have smartphones or data plans and therefore other methods, such as face-to-face interviews, need to be employed in these instances.

When a smartphone survey is designed it is important to create a mobile friendly interface that guarantees a similar experience for respondents, whether they use a smartphone, tablet or computer. Designers should create a questionnaire that fits perfectly onto a small screen device with the question layout in exactly the same format as it would be on other devices. It has been found that results vary considerably on different devices if the question layout differs. Also, it’s frustrating if a survey on a smartphone requires considerable scrolling up and down and left to right. That will result in many respondents abandoning the survey. Such a survey would also take longer to complete than on a computer, which should never be the aim of a smartphone survey.

Smartphone market research is here to stay and offers endless possibilities that other methods lack, and its capabilities will continue to evolve. Market researchers need to fully embrace this technology – they can’t afford not to.

Finds substantial investment, that if well managed, could have significant impact on future of SA, particularly in most deprived areas

21 August 2018 – Johannesburg – New research released today by Intellidex, the finance research and consulting house, shows the charitable and community components of some of the 100 largest JSE companies’ empowerment deals have a net asset value of R37bn and to date have disbursed some R3.3bn in public benefit projects.

The full report can be downloaded here.

The research report interrogates the governance, trust and asset management, fund disbursement policies and beneficiary strategies. The report concludes that a trust’s operating model shapes its performance in each of these aspects.

Entitled Understanding Empowerment Endowments, the findings show nearly two thirds – 64% – of these trusts have been running for 10 years or more but 80% do not have an investment policy statement, which indicates that they do not have an explicit investment strategy for their assets.

The report, funded by Tshikululu Social Investments, covers 25 trusts created by some of the 100 largest companies on the JSE.

Graunt Kruger, Global Head of Strategy Research at Intellidex and a co-author of the study said: “This is the first report of its kind that delves into the detail of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) foundations. We hope that this will serve as a platform for sharing knowledge between the BEE foundations, their sponsor companies, policy makers and other interested stakeholders. There is certainly a need for greater cooperation and knowledge sharing between these trusts and others as they examine the challenges highlighted in this report.”

Tracey Henry, CEO of Tshikululu Social Investments said: “Our study highlights how these trusts have evolved over time as they have matured and become more responsive to the changing needs of the country’s development challenges. These trusts are by no means the silver bullet to rid us of all social ills, but their track record shows that if they are strategic in their intent and well managed that they have, and can continue to make, an important contribution to the social impact investing landscape and most importantly the intended beneficiaries.”

The report’s main findings are:


– More than half of the foundations were registered between 2003 and 2005 with more than a third being registered in 2005 alone. Only one trust was launched before the BBBEE Act of 2003.

– Seventy six percent are perpetual trusts and will continue operating as long as they are able to generate income from their assets. Six out of the 25 trusts have a fixed life span.

– The sizes of boards varied considerably. The average number of board members was six, with least being two and the most 11.

– None of the trusts are fully operationally independent from their sponsor companies – even those whose deals have matured and are not restricted from selling their shares.

Trust management 

– Trusts are managed according to one of four models based on whether they have dedicated staff; the staff are co-located with sponsor company staff; they outsource key operations of the trust; and whether they have their own or shared office space.

– The largest salary bill, 67% of the total salary bill of all trusts in this study, is in the group that largely runs its own operations, and does not rely on the sponsor company. Five trusts in this category spend R26m a year on salaries alone.

Asset management

– The net asset value of R37bn reflects like-for-like growth of about 31% from the value estimated by Intellidex in June 2017.

– Most of the BEE foundations in this report do not have appropriate policies and procedures for asset management or investment or finance committees to oversee risk management, governance and compliance.

– Most of the foundations hold investment portfolios that consist only of their sponsoring company’s shares, largely because they are still restricted from selling. This represents a highly inefficient investment strategy.

– Dividends are the lifeblood of all perpetual foundations. All the foundations studied were entitled to receive a portion of dividends – called a “trickle dividend” – accruing to their shareholding even before they have fully settled the debt obligations.

Fund disbursement

– The 25 trusts have collectively committed almost R4.5bn to funding projects to benefit their beneficiaries.

– Disbursement budgets have grown by 44% in 2018 from 2017.


– Trusts are focused on spending their endowments on disadvantaged groups in South Africa.

– Sixty seven percent of the spending was directed at a variety of education initiatives.

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Intellidex is a leading research and consulting firm that specialises in capital markets and financial services. Its analysis is used by investors, stockbrokers, regulators, lawyers and companies looking to understand capital markets in Africa. Its market and strategy research is used by banks, fund managers, stock brokers, wealth managers and other financial service providers to better understand their market places. | @Intellidex on both Twitter & Facebook.

Founded in 1998, Tshikululu Social Investments is South Africa’s most experienced manager and advisor of corporate foundations and development trusts. Working with clients, developmental agencies and other collaborative partners, Tshikululu’s core purpose is to achieve deep and sustainable change for a greater good that results in positive social impact. This is done through bespoke strategy design, hands-on programme management and tailored social investment solutions, enabling social investors to realise their goals in ways that benefit them and South Africa as a whole. | @Tshikululu on both Twitter & Facebook.

For more information contact:

UPDATE: Subsequent to our lawyers’ letter and the below release, John Hempton posted this retraction and apology on Twitter.


Our lawyers have today written to Australian hedge fund manager John Hempton demanding that he retract and apologise for a tweet in which he accuses Intellidex of accepting bribes, apparently in respect of our report Investment Research in the Era of Fake News: A study of activist short selling and Viceroy Research. Should Hempton not comply with this demand, we will take action on the basis of legal advice.

The legal letter can be downloaded here, and the relevant tweet is here.

For the record, Intellidex applies the strictest standards of ethics in all its work and would not take bribes or any inducement to bias any of its work. In the case of the Viceroy report, we accepted the commission from Business Leadership South Africa on condition that we were contractually guaranteed editorial independence, that the report would be published regardless of our findings, and that all remuneration was paid to us prior to publication of our final report.

These conditions were set to ensure the independence of our research. BLSA complied with these conditions. All remuneration received was from BLSA in terms of this agreement.

The report was written by four analysts with strong research credentials including two PhD-holders. Two of the report’s authors hold the Chartered Financial Analyst designation and are subject to the Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct of the CFA Institute. Intellidex has a 10-year track record of producing high quality research.

We have publicly released our report under our own name and we stand by our findings. None of the analysts had any exposure to the instruments mentioned in the report.

Says Intellidex chairman Stuart Theobald: “We take our professional and ethical commitments very seriously. I would welcome the opportunity to demonstrate this to a court.”

The full report can be downloaded here.

For any queries, please email