According to the webinar, more and more brands are looking to digital research as a means of unlocking the insights that 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.

The webinar indicated that a recent survey shows only 5% of research in South Africa, 13% in the rest of Africa and 21% in other developing markets use digital methodologies, when compared to + 40% globally.

The webinar included a real-life project presented by Stacey Grant, insights director, country and customer development for Africa at Unilever.

"Despite the potential digital research holds for the continent, we are off to a sub-optimal start," Grant said. "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," added Grant.

"As a continent, we are at the forefront of digitised consumers, mobile penetration is extremely high and mobile connectivity has leapfrogged that of personal computers in Africa," Grant reported.

"More and more people are living their lives online; this is 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," Grant said.

"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," Grant said.

"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," added Grant. 

Bev Tigar Basset, associate vice president at Boarderless Access, and one of the presenters of the PAMRO webinar, said, "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 the change to use technology in new ways, which optimise the delivery of insight to the clients we serve," adds Basset.

Sifiso Falala, CEO of Plus 94 Research and PAMRO president, says, "Our webinar highlighted the importance of collaboration and discussion between key industry players. There is much to be learned 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, 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," concludes Falala.

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