Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: WhatsApp, the Front Row Seat to Consumer Engagement
Presenter: Mpho Mpofu, Masutane Consulting Services
With an eager desire to connect with, feel and understand the lives of consumers in South Africa, Mpho Mpofu set out to find a way to gain a front row seat to their world. In a county confronted with a host of limitations – low levels of education, unstable connectivity, limited access to and use of computers, the intimidation of technology, high cost of data, and language barriers – “traditional methods” of conducting qualitative research would prove to be unviable. So, what was the answer? WhatsApp.
Her quest led her to a platform that would offer a multidimensional but non-intrusive lens to consumers’ lives using text, audio and video connections. WhatsApp has become the preferred form of communication in emerging markets around the world with individuals using it on a daily basis to share all the different moments of their lives. Compared to traditional research platforms, this is something these consumers already relate to, making them feel comfortable and in control, setting the stage for a greater willingness to share. WhatsApp is an agile, intimate and affordable method that allows us to be a part of a consumer’s day from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed. It allows us to experience in real-time the influences and circumstances that shape their decision-making, capture consumer emotion and provide a degree of anonymity for consumers. While it is limited to exploratory research, it offers a greater geographic reach and remote engagement capabilities for unlimited insight gathering.
In order to step inside the lives of humans around the world, we must leverage the familiarity and relevance of the current methods they are using to engage in their everyday lives. WhatsApp is always there, especially when computers are not. It’s not without its limitations, but it is a step in the right direction in our efforts to keep qual human and engage with our responds in their own context.
In a time where unique ways of doing research are becoming more relevant, WhatsApp is a current, agile, familiar and affordable method of research that we should all be adding to our repertoire of methodologies.
What I learned in Mpho Mpofu's session has opened my eyes to the world of possibilities that are out there for qualitative research. I will keep the WhatsApp method in mind, as well as search for others, for when we need familiar, accessible and affordable means of reaching key consumer targets. While we don't do a ton of global research currently within my company, this method may open doors to making it more possible than ever.
In the world of qualitative research, we don't have to be confined to the people or places we can reach in person. With advancement in technology, we can get to the places we never thought we could reach.
In our quest to keep qual human, we must make take conscious efforts to meet people in their own context, in the depths of their world, in their everyday moments. WhatsApp is just one of many tools that we can use to reach the places we never thought possible.
QRCA Reporter on the Scene: Allyson Sovinsky, MarketVision Research