Messaging Applications as Healthcare Market Research Tools in India
Authors: A. Shukla, R.M. Dokala, J.R. Philomen
Study Limitations: Low sample size, uneven geographic distribution, appeal of the advert not accounted, and personal network strength in case of messengers
Digitization has opened new avenues for Healthcare market research in India
India, in the last few years, has seen fast-paced digitization, driven by increasing internet coverage and low-cost smartphones. As a result, social networking and messaging applications like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp have emerged as mediums of choice for networking, and sources of information.
The Healthcare market researchers in India, like their global counterparts, have been increasingly employing digital research tools to reach relevant respondents. However, as far as our understanding goes, social messaging applications like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are not yet widely utilized for Healthcare market research in India.
Study background and Research problem
Cervical Cancer (CCa), by virtue of its slow-growth, has a long window of opportunity for diagnosis. Timely identification and intervention can result in successful treatment in majority of the cases. Unfortunately, however, CCa is the second leading cause of cancer mortality among Indian women. The ‘why’ is not difficult to comprehend if seen in light of the dismal 3.1% screening rate (Ref 1).
We wanted to understand if screening rate is this low even among the section of women who are educated, are aware about CCa, and can financially afford to get themselves screened.
FB Adverts versus Social messaging applications
We designed a 10-minute survey. As this was an internal project and the team was allocated limited resources, we decided to reach our target respondents through social networking/messaging tools. Facebook Adverts (FB Ads) was our obvious choice considering possibility of targeting respondents across India. We also decided to tap into our personal network via messaging applications (WhatsApp and FB Messenger), as our study IR was at the higher end.
Both methods have their pros and cons (refer to Table 1 below). However, in terms of effectiveness, our working hypothesis was that a commercial service like FB Ads will be more useful in reaching potential respondents.
> 90% Responses were acquired through Messaging applications
We ran a pilot for 6 days, from 4th to 9th Jan, to check the effectiveness of both mediums (refer to Table 2 below). From cost-effectiveness perspective, WhatsApp and FB Messenger have proved to be many times more effective than FB adverts.
Based on the results from the pilot, we suspended the FB Ads campaign and the rest of the study was completed through the messenger services. The study has been accepted by ESMO 2017 for poster presentation (Ref 3; Poster #980P: Factors Negatively Affecting Voluntary Cervical Cancer Screening Among Educated Indians Above Poverty Line)
Messaging applications could be a good addition in the Healthcare MR toolkit
Our study indicates that the messenger applications – WhatsApp and FB Messenger – could be a good additions to the market research toolkit. They have an element of trust which, along with other attributes like ease of access, make them effective tools.
Though our study doesn’t serve as a testimony to the effectiveness of FB Ads, given the right presentation and circulation, it could be an effective tool. Nevertheless, we can say with certainty that messaging applications can be a helpful tool for healthcare market researchers in faster completion of projects that have high IR.
Study limitations: Low sample size, uneven geographic distribution, appeal of the advert, and personal network limitation in case of messengers