Why it matters

South African retailer Woolworths used a chatbot on Facebook to create a persona-driven alternative to traditional food diary-based research, revealing deeper insights by boosting engagement and data quality.


  • Food diaries are great sources of insight if respondents can overcome the flaws in the method: people answer too rationally, and engagement tends to fall off.
  • Facebook chatbots, in certain markets, combine high reach to find a wide sample with a platform that many respondents use habitually, so reducing barriers to usage.
  • Understanding consumption motivations has helped Woolworths adapt the timings of its promotions, the language of its communications, and is even touching product development.

Woolworths, the South African retailer, built a persona-based Facebook chatbot to understand the food habits of South Africans. In contrast to a food diary, this method aimed to access a more naturally-worded and accurately reported picture of food consumption in order to better inform both NPD and communication strategies.