Using WhatsApp for Qualitative Research

With 1 billion users globally, sending 42 billion messages and 250 million videos every day, WhatsApp would be hard to ignore in any industry. For market research, WhatsApp is like one of those power tools you get at the hardware store with many interchangeable parts, that half the time you don’t quite know how to make use of so that it all comes together. Somehow you just know that if you can figure out the different ways to use different aspects of this power tool; you just know it will revolutionize your work and its results.

We have gladly taken the trouble to share some of our favorite lessons on how WhatsApp enables and adds value to qualitative research processes.

Capturing authentic Feelings and Attitudes

You may despise people who respond to messages with lots of emoticons and icons but to Qualitative researchers this can be pure gold. Many times respondents may struggle to put to words what they feel or think about an issue, product or topic. The ability to think, construct and articulate opinions may not be as easy to everyone as we like to think. This can be even more unsettling in a group setting where different dynamics are at play. This is why emojis and the personalization of mobile phone communication is perfect in drawing out sentiment and allowing respondents to express their real feelings without being tasked to explain what they mean.

Delivering multi-modal Content that supports deeper analysis and interpretation

The ability to take videos, pictures and share GIFs all add to the complimentary dimension WhatsApp lends to qualitative research.   Not only do you get more engaged and spontaneous participants in a discussion you can actually get deeper layers of nuance and context as to why they feel or respond in a certain way. Imagine a Mystery Shopper in a fashion retail store who snaps photos or shares a video of her disappointing experience in the garment fitting room. You will be able to narrow down to the exact pain points of her experience and connect them to how they personally affected her as a shopper.

For example,  Mary the Mystery Shopper can post a video of the tight squeeze of a space in the fitting room that made her feel like she was grossly obese which in turn distorted her body confidence and put her off trying the dress she really wanted to try on. Consequently, Mary did not make the purchase she would have wanted. The insight here would not just be about design functionality, but truly understanding how a customer’s emotions are greatly impacted by a single factor.

Easier analysis of text files

One of the beautiful things about WhatsApp is the ability to export messages and group chats. You can save content as text files for easier analysis. Considering the time and process involved in transcribing audio files, WhatsApp can comparatively help improve workflows for Qualitative researchers thus making timelines and project costs far more efficient

Having said this, it must be stated that WhatsApp isn’t the Be All End All of Qualitative Research. There are real challenges involved especially at the onset in trying to get the groups formed and getting participants to respond appropriately and proactively.

The Group Moderator must ensure that the purpose or goal of the discussion is very clear to users as well as give guidelines about what content can be shared in connection to the discussion.  It is also important to incentivize participants for their data costs particularly where videos, photos and GIFs are shared.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *