With low smartphone penetration, SMS surveys are still king in Africa




By Njeri Wangari

In a vast continent such as Africa, data collection for research purposes has been a huge challenge not just for market research agencies but also for organisations who seek to better understand the environments they are operating in. Gone are the days when market research was defined by a printed questionnaire. The pen and paper mode of data collection, often in a face to face interaction between a researcher and a respondent, worked at a time when there were no easier, faster and more effective alternatives to collect data from Africa.

With the advent of wireless communications in the 1970s, it has now been 45 years since mobile phones first came to be. As mobile technology has advanced, Africa has become one of the biggest beneficiaries of this technology, by constantly redefining its use and creating new applications with which mobile can solve everyday problems. Along with banking and communications, market research is one of the fields that has benefited from this widespread mobile connectivity, but mobile research in Africa still looks very different than it does in more advanced regions.

Tablets and smartphones are common in Europe in the US, but in Africa smartphone penetration is still low: While South Africa has 34% smartphone penetration out of all mobile subscribers, Kenya and Ghana are around 15%, and other countries are lower. That is exactly why simple short messaging service (SMS or text messaging), which can be found even in the most basic mobile phones, remains King when it comes to conducting surveys in Africa.

Below are some of the reasons why SMS surveys remain one of the most effective modes of data collection in Africa. For more information on other modes of data collection and how to identify the best research provider to you, refer to our article on the international marketing research process.

 Benefits of using SMS surveys for data collection in Africa

  1. Fast data turnaround

Compared to other data collection methods such as face to face, SMS collects data very quickly and can upload results in real-time, which allows for faster data analysis. Fast data collection is crucial when studying product placement or measuring an ongoing marketing campaign.

  1. Ease of response

Participants to the survey can respond to questions at their convenience and on their own phones.

  1. Increased access

Due to the nature of the mobile phone which respondents take wherever they are, be it in remote or urban areas, in home or out of home, respondents are reachable for a survey no matter where they are located. This is particularly important as many of these respondents are hard to reach through face to face or internet survey methods.

  1. Few device barriers

The respondents do not require a smartphone or have internet (mobile data) to receive or respond to surveys.

  1. High response rates

Mobile surveys have high daily response rates depending on the time of day compared to other means of data collection. This is mostly due to the proximity of the phone to the respondent and the ease in which they can take the surveys from wherever they are.

  1. Error minimization

Although this might not be the standard for all mobile research agencies, the GeoPoll surveying platform can automatically verify answers are in the expected range and prompt respondents to correct invalid when responses are typed in via the phone keypad.

  1. Incentive availability

Even without smartphones, SMS survey tools such as GeoPoll allow participants who take SMS surveys to receive airtime credit upon survey completion. This ensures that survey participants feel valued for their time and that clients are able to get insights faster.

  1. Low or no cost to respondent

If the survey solution provider you use has partnered with a mobile network operator, there are often no charges incurred by respondents for participating in an SMS survey. GeoPoll has partnerships with over 85 mobile network operators which allow us to send free-to-the-respondent SMS messages.

GeoPoll has partnerships with over 85 mobile network operators which allow us to send free-to-the-respondent SMS messages.

GeoPoll has been conducting SMS surveys in Africa for over 5 years, and we also facilitate mobile web, mobile app, Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing, and other survey modes. We have a team of experienced researchers and analysts who are able to advise you on the best data collection method based on your research objectives.

(From GeoPoll blog).




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