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Why WhatsApp is the best tool for market research in Africa

May 11, 2023


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.

Example of completing a survey on WhatsApp bot
Example of completing a survey on WhatsApp
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

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 business example
WhatsApp for business

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.

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.

Multiple Choice Question WhatsApp bot example
Multiple Choice Question WhatsApp bot example

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.

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.


How can startups ensure participant privacy and data security when conducting market research via WhatsApp?

Startups can ensure privacy and data security by obtaining consent before collecting data, using end-to-end encryption, and adhering to GDPR and local data protection regulations.

What specific steps should be taken to set up a WhatsApp survey bot for market research?

Setting up a WhatsApp survey bot involves selecting a platform or service that offers WhatsApp integration, designing the survey, and configuring the bot to distribute the survey and collect responses automatically.

Are there any limitations or challenges specific to WhatsApp market research in African markets?

Limitations include potential biases due to the demographic of WhatsApp users, challenges with data management for large-scale surveys, and ensuring user engagement throughout the survey process

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