Serene Queries

WhatsApp as research platform

Jun 11, 2021

Does ESOMAR have an official position / recommendation on the appropriateness of WhatsApp as research platform? I would like to use WhatsApp business for a customer journey study.

Experts Response

Jul 15, 2021

ESOMAR does not offer advice on whether to use one research platform or another, as this is a highly dynamic area which depends on the specific research brief in question. However, you might find the following – non exhaustive - points useful in your own assessment of whether this platform is appropriate for your research needs;

1. Is the platform being used for the ‘questionnaire/data capture approach’ or the sample or both? If both, each area needs to be assessed independently in terms of appropriateness of fit for your needs.

2. For the questionnaire/data capture component, you will need to consider any restrictions in terms of text/numeric characters and questionnaire design if this is the approach you have in mind. For example, can the approach deal with a wide variety of questionnaire types? Scales/bars/images/open ends/voice/video/diary etc.

3. For the sample itself, if it is linked to the usage of the platform, it is worth probing on the characteristics of the sample. Is the sample linked to WhatsApp or are the respondents being asked to load WhatsApp as a precursor to the research? If the former, it is worth understanding whether the sample will be oriented towards heavy users of WhatsApp, in which case it is worth probing on the demography of this group and their differences to the population generally in the context of the work you are doing. It is also worth probing on geographic scope. If you are undertaking work in an area where there is a high uptake of WhatsApp, and you want to expand this work globally, choice of platform and sample can be a relevant factor in your ability to expand the programme.

4. Ensure that Whatsapp is a permitted application in the market you are researching. Make sure you are compliant with all local privacy laws, especially with regards to transferring personal data outside of a given market.

Generally speaking, the research provider you are working with should have an idea of the pros and cons of working with their platform and they should be able and prepared to have an open discussion about this. You may find the recently published ESOMAR Questions to help Buyers of Online Samples (https://www.esomar.org/what-we-do/code-guidelines/questions-for-buyers-users-online-sample) have some helpful questions you can use to frame a helpful dialogue with the platform provider, together with the ESOMAR Global Guideline on Mobile Research.

Should you require further assistance with regards to privacy and data protection issues, we are happy to support you through our ESOMAR Plus consultancy service. You can contact us at professional.standards@esomar.org for more information and a complimentary first session.