Why WhatsApp is the best tool for market research in Africa




Why use Whatsapp for market research

  • Key Statistics
  • Why is WhatsApp so popular in Africa?
  • Ease of use and wide availability:

How can I use Whatsapp for Market research

  • Focus Groups
  • Building your own survey chatbot
  • Pairing with a company that has a WA bot

Types of Questions you can ask via WhatsApp

  • Voice Note
  • Multiple Choice Questions
  • Multi Select Multiple Choice Questions
  • Open Text
  • Video
  • Image/Screenshot

How can you recruit participants for WhatsApp Research?

  • Facebook ads and other Social Media Marketing Platforms
  • Whatsapp link or QR code
  • Referral Program

Receiving and analysing the data

  • Data Capturing in a WA group
  • Capturing in your own in-house chatbot
  • Capturing from external chatbot


In the dynamic business environment of today, market research plays a pivotal role for companies vying for a competitive edge. Understanding consumer preferences, habits, and needs helps businesses in decision-making and strategy formulation. A standout tool that has shown remarkable effectiveness for market research, particularly in Africa, is WhatsApp. This blog post delves into the power of WhatsApp as a market research tool and the unique way it can bridge the gap between your business and your target audience in Africa.

WhatsApp - A Global Phenomenon

WhatsApp, a prominent messaging app under the Facebook/Meta umbrella, launched in 2009, has emerged as a universally adopted communication tool. WhatsApp equips its users with the ability to exchange text messages, images, videos, voice notes, and documents, and enables voice and video calls. The platform's end-to-end encryption ensures secure and private conversations.

Why use Whatsapp for market research

Recent years have seen an exponential increase in the number of WhatsApp users in Africa, attributed to the growing penetration of mobile internet and affordable smartphones. WhatsApp's localisation initiatives, such as multilingual support, have also played a part in its widespread acceptance across the continent.

Key Statistics:

Specifically in Africa:


Why is WhatsApp so popular in Africa?

The cost-effective nature and low data consumption of WhatsApp have made it a preferred communication tool in Africa. The app's user-friendly interface and widespread availability have further solidified its integration with local businesses and services.

Affordable and Economical:

WhatsApp is a cost-effective communication medium in Africa. With only ~1 KB per message, users can send up to 1000 messages with just 1 MB of data. Additionally, a phone call costs 400 KB per minute, making it significantly more affordable than traditional phone calls.

Average data costs across African countries:

Ghana: $0.66/GB

Nigeria: $0.88/GB

Kenya: $1.39/GB

South Africa: $2.06/GB

Ease of use and wide availability:

WhatsApp's user-friendly interface and multilingual support make it accessible even to those who are not digitally literate. Despite the app's initial size of 78 MB, WhatsApp backs up your messages, allowing users with storage constraints to delete messages without losing data.

Seamless integration with local businesses:

Many African businesses and service providers use WhatsApp Business to interact with customers, creating an in-app storefront linked to their number. A year post the launch of WhatsApp Business, five million businesses were already using it.


WhatsApp for digital market research

WhatsApp presents several benefits for market research, including:

  1. Real-time communication and feedback: Engage directly with your audience for instant feedback and insights.
  2. Access to diverse demographics: WhatsApp's vast user base provides access to a wide range of demographics, including those in rural areas.
  3. Secure data collection: WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption ensures secure and private data collection, safeguarding both your business and your research subjects.
  4. High Response Rates: Yazi has a ~62% average response rate over survey projects.

How can I use WhatsApp for market research?

There are mainly three ways in which you can use WhatsApp for market research:

  • Focus Groups
  • Build your own Survey WhatsApp Chatbot
  • Pair up with a company that already has a WhatsApp survey bot

Focus Groups

Utilising a WhatsApp group as a focus group can be an innovative and efficient way to conduct qualitative market research. Focus groups offer a unique opportunity to delve deeper into consumers' thoughts, opinions, and experiences. When conducted on WhatsApp, focus groups benefit from the convenience and ease of online communication.

Pros of using focus groups

  • Real-time interactions: WhatsApp allows for instant communication, making it ideal for collecting quick responses to open questions, surveys or polls
  • The ability to facilitate dynamic discussions, uncover nuanced insights, and observe group dynamics in real-time. Participants can freely interact, respond to prompts, and bounce ideas off one another, fostering rich conversations.
  • High engagement: The familiarity and convenience of WhatsApp make it easy for participants to engage actively, resulting in a higher response rate compared to other methods.
  • Additionally, WhatsApp groups allow for anonymity, which can encourage participants to express honest opinions without fear of judgement.

However, there are cons to consider.

  • Focus groups have a small sample size, limiting generalizability.
  • The group dynamic may lead to conformity biases, where participants influence one another's responses.
  • It's also essential to manage time effectively and ensure all participants have an equal chance to contribute.

Overall, using WhatsApp groups as focus groups can yield valuable qualitative data, but it's important to carefully plan and moderate the discussions to minimise bias and maximise insights.

An Example.

Let’s say I am conducting a diary study on 60 people. And we want to know which products they use in the kitchen on a daily basis. This diary study will be split into 3 Days.

If I was doing a diary study through Whatsapp, I would

  1. Add them to a group
  2. I would have them answer questions for Day 1 that I have prepared for them within the group. Wait for them to answer then ask the next question and so forth. The Next Day at a certain time, I would start doing Day 2 of the Diary study with them.
  3. If someone has not indicated that they are ready for the task, I would quickly ring them to remind them about the task.

Build a survey or data collection WhatsApp chatbot

Whatsapp allows you to build bots on top of it, so this can be a way for you to create a Google form type bot that is purely based on Whatsapp for your research needs.

Unfortunately, I can’t get into the nitty-gritty of creating a bot, but here’s a link to an article that takes it into detail. Click here . But here is a small outline

1. Getting access to the WhatsApp API through Meta and verified Facebook Business Account:

  • Applying through Meta: To gain access to the WhatsApp API, you need to apply through Meta, the company that owns WhatsApp. The application process typically involves submitting details about your business and intended use case for the API.
  • Verified Facebook Business Account: Having a verified Facebook Business Account is often a requirement to access the WhatsApp API. Verification helps ensure authenticity and legitimacy, enhancing your chances of API approval.

2. Pricing considerations when choosing a bot platform:

  • Subscription Plans: Different bot platform providers offer various pricing models, such as monthly subscriptions based on the number of active users or messages sent. Consider your anticipated usage and growth projections to choose a plan that aligns with your budget.
  • Scalability: Consider the pricing structure's scalability as your user base grows. Some platforms may offer cost advantages or volume discounts for larger user counts, allowing you to align pricing with your expanding research needs.

3. Choosing a Bot Platform: Technical vs. Non-Technical Ease of Use and Customizability:

  • Technical Platforms: Platforms that require coding and technical expertise offer greater customizability and flexibility. You can create highly tailored solutions, connect to your own database, and implement complex logic. However, they may require developer involvement, making them more suitable for teams with technical skills or dedicated developers.
  • Non-Technical Platforms: No-code or low-code bot platforms provide an easier, non-technical interface for building bots. They offer pre-built templates and drag-and-drop functionality, allowing users without coding experience to create bots quickly. While they may have limitations on customization and integration options, they offer a more accessible solution for research teams with limited technical resources.
  • Consider Your Needs: Assess the complexity of your research requirements, desired level of customization, and available technical resources. If you have specific data integration needs or require advanced logic, a more technical platform may be worth the investment. Conversely, if ease of use and quick deployment are key considerations, a non-technical platform may be more suitable.

Platforms you can choose from:


  1. Customization: Building your own research bot allows you to tailor it precisely to your research needs. You have full control over the design, conversation flows, and features, ensuring they align with your specific objectives and target audience.
  2. Flexibility: With a self-built bot, you can adapt and iterate based on feedback and evolving research requirements. You have the freedom to make changes and optimizations as needed without relying on external support or limitations.
  3. Data Ownership: By building your own bot, you maintain complete ownership and control over the data collected. This allows you to handle data privacy and security according to your standards and compliance requirements.


  1. Time and Resources: Building a research bot from scratch requires time, technical expertise, and resources. You need to invest in development, testing, and ongoing maintenance, which may not be feasible for everyone, especially smaller research teams with limited budgets or technical skills.
  2. Learning Curve: If you or your team are not familiar with bot development, there may be a learning curve involved. Acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge can take time, potentially delaying your research initiatives.
  3. Limited Audience Reach: Building your own bot means you need to invest in growing and engaging your own audience. This may take time and effort to build a substantial participant base, impacting the diversity and representativeness of your data.

A WhatsApp chatbot is also a good route because you can immediately download the data you collected into a Google Sheet to be analysed and used to fuel your growth.

Pair up a company that already has a WhatsApp survey bot

This is also an option if you are not the type to want to deal with the technical side of things. Don’t have to worry about developers and admin fees but just want to be able to use the chatbot. Pair up with a company that already has a WhatsApp chatbot and leverage its software to launch your research project on WhatsApp. It’s best to pair up with a company that has experience doing market research through WhatsApp with their chatbot. *hint hint askyazi.com.

A chatbot is usually ideal since the participants can respond to your questions whenever they can at their own pace. They are also ideal for mass qualitative research.

Within a chatbot, you can ask them different types of questions as well. You can ask your participants to answer your questions in the following formats


  1. Established Audience: Using a pre-built research bot from a company with an existing audience provides access to a large and diverse pool of participants. This can save time and effort in recruiting participants, ensuring a broader reach and potentially more representative data.
  2. Expertise and Support: Research bot providers that specialise in surveying and research have extensive experience and expertise. They often provide support, best practices, and technical assistance, helping you optimise your research process.
  3. Time and Cost Savings: Utilising a pre-built research bot can save you development time and costs associated with building your own bot from scratch. It allows you to focus on research design and analysis rather than technical implementation.


  1. Limited Customization: Pre-built research bots may have limitations in customization. While they offer predefined templates and configurations, they may not fully align with your specific research needs or allow extensive modifications to suit your objectives.
  2. Data Access and Ownership: When using a pre-built research bot, you may have limited control over the data collected. The provider may have access to the data or impose restrictions on data ownership and usage, which could impact your research process and data privacy compliance.
  3. Dependence on External Factors: Relying on an external provider means you are dependent on their platform's stability, uptime, and availability. Any issues or changes on their end could impact your research process and data collection.

Types of questions you can ask via WhatsApp

When conducting surveys on WhatsApp using a research or survey bot, the types of questions you can ask are more diverse than your average digital survey tool, which can enhance the data collection process and provide more well-rounded insights. Below, we will delve into the different question types available in WhatsApp surveys and discuss how each one works, along with their specific use cases.

Voice Note:

The voice note question type allows participants to respond to survey prompts by recording an audio clip. This question type is valuable when seeking qualitative insights and gaining a deeper understanding of the participant's perspective. It mimics a user interview, providing richer and more detailed responses.

When to use:

Use voice note questions when you want participants to provide detailed explanations, share personal stories, or express opinions that require a more nuanced and qualitative approach.


Multiple Choice Questions:

WhatsApp has recently introduced a powerful feature that enhances the user experience (UX) of surveys—the use of buttons. For 2-3 options, they are displayed as buttons in the chat (see below), while 4-10 options appear as a selectable list after you click a burger menu icon in the chat.

Buttons provide an intuitive and interactive way for participants to respond to questions, revolutionising the survey experience on WhatsApp. Instead of relying solely on text-based responses, buttons offer a more streamlined and engaging approach, making it easier for participants to provide feedback.

When to use:

This question type is suitable for structured data collection, straightforward responses, or when you need participants to choose one option among specific options.


Multi-select Multiple Choice Question

Similar to multiple choice questions, multi-select multiple choice allows participants to choose multiple answers from the provided options. Participants can indicate their selections by providing the associated answer letter (e.g., A, C, F), separating multiple choices with commas (e.g., A, C, F). This question type offers versatility in capturing nuanced preferences or multiple responses within a single question.

When to use:

This question type is also suitable for structured data collection, when you need participants to choose one or more options that might apply to them.

When we ask for Multiple choice questions, from time to time there is a multi-select option for them. So then the participant would answer in A, B, and C to indicate which multiple-choice answers they picked.

Open Text:

You are also able to ask people to respond to you in open text. Meaning they can respond to you in their own written words. This helps you understand their context and the way they think about the question at hand.

When to use:

Exploratory research: when you are exploring a new topic or area and want to gain a deeper understanding of participants' perspectives and experiences. like understanding complex topics or capturing diverse viewpoints.


The video question type enables participants to respond to survey prompts by recording and sending videos. Videos can be particularly useful for capturing contextual information, such as the participant's environment, or providing in-field data. They offer a visual and personal perspective, similar to voice notes, enhancing qualitative insights.

When to use:

Opt for video questions when you need visual context, in-field data, or a deeper understanding of participants' experiences through visual cues.


With image/picture questions, participants can upload and share images or pictures as responses to survey prompts. This question type allows for collecting visual evidence or capturing aspects of the participant's life or environment. It can be used to support their answers or gather data that requires visual representation.

When to use:

Utilise image/picture questions to gather visual evidence, collect screenshots, or gain insights into participants' surroundings or specific aspects of their lives.

Because WhatsApp has video and image sending within their app, we are also able to provide that as one of the ways you collect participants' responses. On the Google Sheet, you will get a link that will send you to the image of the video that the participant would have sent to you and allow you to download it.


Using different question types in WhatsApp surveys with a research or survey bot can provide diverse insights and enhance the quality of data collected. Voice notes and videos offer qualitative perspectives, while image/picture questions capture visual evidence. Multiple choice and multi-select multiple choice questions provide structured responses. Consider the specific objectives of your research to determine which question types will best serve your needs and enable you to gather comprehensive and actionable insights.

How can you recruit participants for WhatsApp research?

Now a question you might be asking yourself is, “ Okay I want to give WhatsApp a try for my research and experience the benefits firsthand, but how do I recruit people for my research?

Well, that is quite straightforward. You can do it in 3 different ways:

  1. Recruit through Social media (Facebook ads, Instagram Ads, Twitter Ads)
  2. Create a Whatsapp Link that you can make people scan through a QR code and/or put it in an email and run a cold campaign.
  3. Build a referral Campaign

Facebook Ads and Other Social media platform Marketing

Recruiting through Facebook ads or any other social media platform works quite well but you would need some budget to spend to expect any type of return. We are looking at about ~R2000 for about 300 people. That also depends on what your advertisement looks like and what the incentive is for the people you are targeting.

How to set it up:

  1. Setup a Facebook Ads account at https://business.facebook.com/
  2. Create a new ad
  3. Define your target audience that you want to recruit on their dashboard. E.g 18-25 Male and Females based in Kenya
  4. Create an ad image, here’s an example

  1. Write engaging copy that is calling out the people that you need for your research project and add the WhatsApp Link as a CTA titled “Learn More” to traffic them to your WhatsApp chatbot.
  2. Chatbot only lets those who qualify to participate in your survey.

Create a WhatsApp link or QR code:

QR code and WhatsApp link work if you are going more in person. An example I can give you is if you were doing research in the townships of South Africa. Specifically, you are looking for people who buy at spazas and tuck shops and would like to know which brands they prefer to buy when they are there.

One way to use the QR code is to go into a partnership with a couple of local spazas or tuckshops in that township and ask them to have your QR code sticker there to recruit people. Your QR sticker is accompanied by a small flyer or brochure explaining what people would have to do to get the incentive that is linked to them completing your survey or diary study!

People Scan and they get sent to your chatbot immediately and they are ready to get on board with your research


Referral Program

The referral programme is self-explanatory, the good old word of mouth but that is obviously driven by incentive. Usually works well with people that completed the survey and have been incentivised by you. This makes your recruiting easier because they are getting referred to you by someone they trust, a friend. Family member, colleague etc.

Keep it transparent with the person who is going to be referring you. A good incentive is usually half of what they earn from completing your survey, but it heavily depends on your budget. Clearly stipulate to them that they will only get their incentive if the person they have referred completes their survey as well.

Steps to start one:

  1. Identify all those who have completed your survey/diary and have been paid
  2. Approach them with the referral programme and make an asset that they can send to their network. Here’s an example:


  1. Give them a message copy to send to their network: “Hi x, I just recently completed a survey with Yazi and got my payout of R20 in airtime. They asked if I have any friends who would be interested in doing this survey and I thought of you. All you have to do is click this link {Insert WA link} and start answering questions. It’s only 15 minutes long, then you are done! Just let me know if you are down.”
  2. After that, ask them to send you the numbers of those that did the survey and you will be able to find them on your Google sheets!

Receiving and analysing the data

Depending on the option you choose for your research, there are different approaches to capturing and managing the collected data:

  1. Focus Group WhatsApp Group: If you opt for a focus group on WhatsApp, where participants engage in discussions and provide feedback, you may need to manually capture the data. This involves monitoring the group conversations, recording participant responses, and organising the data manually in a spreadsheet or document for further analysis. It requires active involvement and diligent note-taking during the group sessions to ensure accurate data capture.
  2. Building Your Own WhatsApp Survey Bot: When building your own WhatsApp survey bot, you have the flexibility to set up a database or Sheets integration to automate the data capture process. This integration allows the responses collected by the bot to be automatically piped and stored in a structured manner in a database or Google Sheets. By setting up the integration, you can streamline data management, eliminate manual data entry, and ensure real-time updates as respondents complete the survey.
  3. Using a Company with a WhatsApp Survey Bot: If you choose to utilise a company that already has a WhatsApp survey bot, they often provide a built-in data capture and management system. The company's bot is designed to automatically collect and store the survey responses in their system or database. They may offer data export functionalities or integrations with popular tools like Google Sheets or databases for seamless data transfer and further analysis.

Ultimately, the approach you choose depends on factors such as your research requirements, available resources, and technical capabilities. Manually capturing data from a focus group WhatsApp group requires active participation, while building your own WhatsApp survey bot or using a company's existing bot allows for automated data capture and integration with databases or spreadsheets, streamlining the process and enabling more efficient analysis of the collected data.

How to setup and analyse data for a WhatsApp bot

Once you have collected data from your WhatsApp survey bot, you can easily organise and store it in a Google Sheet or a database for further analysis. The data structure can be set up in a way where the user ID is placed in column A, and each answer is placed in a subsequent row starting from column D. This layout ensures that each respondent's responses are captured horizontally in a single row, similar to how data is received from Google Forms responses.

After importing the data into a Google Sheet or database, you can leverage various data visualisation tools for analysis.

One option is Google Looker Data Studio, a free and user-friendly tool that allows you to connect your data source and create insightful visualisations and dashboards. Looker Data Studio provides a range of visualisation options, such as charts, tables, and graphs, enabling you to explore and present your survey data in a clear and visually appealing manner.

Setting up Looker Data Studio is relatively simple, making it an accessible choice for analysing your WhatsApp survey data and deriving actionable insights.

It usually comes in this format when you download it straight from the chatbot:

Google Sheet of survey response data from Yazi's WhatsApp chatbot


In the rapidly evolving landscape of market research, businesses are always on the lookout for innovative tools that deliver reliable and actionable insights. Given its widespread popularity and adoption in Africa, WhatsApp emerges as an effective medium for engaging with consumers and gathering valuable data. Its user-friendly interface, multilingual support, and cost-effectiveness make it a tool that fits seamlessly into the lifestyle of the African consumer.

In this blog, we've delved into how businesses can use WhatsApp for market research, ranging from hosting focus groups and diary studies to building chatbots and pairing up with existing chat services. It's also a versatile platform that allows for a wide range of question types, including voice notes, multiple-choice questions, open text, and image or video responses.

To recruit participants for your market research, you can utilise several strategies, such as social media marketing, creating a WhatsApp link or QR code, or building a referral campaign. The key here is to align your recruitment strategy with your target audience and offer compelling incentives to boost participation.

As a final note, remember that every tool is only as good as the strategy behind its use. The effectiveness of WhatsApp as a market research tool depends on how well you tailor your approach to suit your research objectives and your target audience. But with its wide reach, ease of use, and versatility, WhatsApp offers immense potential for businesses to engage with their customers and gain a deeper understanding of the African market.

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