Business Development Science and Technology

Digital research is best positioned to understand African consumers

More and more brands are looking to digital research as a means of unlocking the insights they require to reach the African consumer. However, despite huge amounts of digital data and exponential increases in respondents, market research is not yet effectively leveraging the digital revolution. A recent survey indicates only 5% of research in RSA, 13% in the rest of Africa, and 21% in other developing markets use digital methodologies when compared to +40% globally.

The forum for research organisations, including media research providers, media owners, marketers, and advertising agencies in different African countries, PAMRO (Pan African Media Research Organisation) in association with Borderless Access presented a webinar on 21 July, where African research and the digital evolution of the continent’s consumers was unpacked.

The webinar included a real life project presented by Stacey Grant: Insights Director, Country and Customer Development for Africa at Unilever, who said, “Despite the potential digital research holds for the continent we are off to a sub-optimal start. There is no continent that needs digital intervention more than Africa does. There are places in Africa that a researcher simply cannot get to physically, either due to cost, safety or health factors. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a number of the pitfalls of traditional research and has necessitated a better approach. These limitations can be reduced or even overcome by conducting research digitally.

“As a continent we are at the forefront of digitized consumers, mobile penetration is extremely high, and mobile connectivity has leapfrogged that of personal computers in Africa.  More and more people are living their lives online – a trend we have seen accelerated by COVID-19. Our research needs to be where the people are, and to understand the world through their eyes. And so, to this end, engaging in research digitally is a business imperative.

“Digital provides constant and higher levels of engagement and the opportunity for brands to adapt. It also enables deep insights into consumers that brands should be hungering after. The best way is to listen, we need to be passive listeners and proactive partners. Through technology such as social media listening, there is no longer an excuse not to hear our target market.

“Digital research should not threaten traditional research methods, rather  it should complement them. Especially in a market as diverse as Africa, a hybrid approach may at times be absolutely necessary. What is most important is the business question or challenge you are addressing, and if this is clear, then the research methodology selection of digital, traditional or hybrid is is an easy one to make, to ensure we glean the right insights,” explained Grant.

Bev Tigar Basset, Associate Vice President at Boarderless Access, and one of the presenters of the PAMRO webinar yesterday added, “We’re a young digital continent, we have an opportunity move forward. The digital revolution is enabling the insight industry in ways we would not have imagined. It is constantly challenging our industry to be open and to adopt change to use technology in new ways which optimise the delivery of insight to the clients we serve.”

Sifiso Falala CEO of Plus 94 Research and PAMRO President added, “Our webinar highlighted the importance of collaboration and discussion between key industry players. There is much to be learnt when bringing CMO-level individuals together. It is up to us as an industry to share learnings about how we leverage African digital online opportunities.”

With market research continuously finding new ways to work with consumers digitally, Falala concluded that the industry “is getting closer to harnessing the digital revolution to leverage the exceptional depth of insight that it provides for brands doing business in Africa.”

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende