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.

“How do we begin to know what the true motivations and drivers of consumers are?” asked Charlene Van Zyl, Head of Customer at Woolworths. (For the full insight, read WARC’s in-depth report: How a chatbot delivers deep insights on food for Woolworths)

Effectively, the method is an update on the food diary, which has traditionally suffered from two key flaws:

  • People answer far more rationally than they behave
  • Engagement falls off because respondents don’t enjoy the experience.

To avoid these, the brand – along with research partner Kantar – worked to design a chatbot on Facebook Messenger, that would provide reminders to consumers on a high-reach platform that most were already using.

The research was persona-based, with the character of Serena as the point of contact. The “over 1000” users of the bot would respond to the character’s nudges and would respond in natural language and photographs that researchers could then analyse.

The patterns from the data surfaced different messages at different times, providing key insights on consumption habits. For instance, Mondays mid-month, according to the data, show how craving as a motivation across the sample is very low mid-month, while health is very important.

Results are now informing a handful of key areas for the business:

  • help marketing with the choice of language,
  • help time promotions,
  • help NPD team to tap into consumer needs,
  • provide a different perspective on pricing.

Sourced from WARC