Navigation apps like HERE WeGo are aimed at everybody, but we’ve discovered that far more men than women use them. Wanting to know why the gender imbalance exists, and how we can improve our app for all, HERE partnered with audience intelligence platform Pulsar and its research arm FACE to carry out innovative social media-based analysis.
As head of IoT consumer and customer insights at HERE, Anja Niehof is responsible for market research, and explains: “We started the gender study by looking first at the results of internal research but it wasn’t in depth enough. We wanted to avoid stereotypical responses, and instead look at behavioural habits.”
That’s why the team leveraged Pulsar’s ability to conduct qualitative research on a massive scale using social media platforms. For this research, it used Twitter API to identify the gender of people publicly discussing navigation apps.
The flexibility provided by Pulsar means that while the research started with gender, it ended up analysing how people in general use apps, the implications of their expectations and how HERE can update its products to hold a broader appeal for everybody.
The research didn’t just stop at HERE, either, and Anja adds: “Just as we moved onto behaviour from gender, we also went beyond the HERE WeGo application, looking at the wider industry and other navigation apps, and there were some surprises.”
“One of the results was that women are less interested in mapping as a category, but they’re as engaged as men if need be. Women are more flexible in getting around – they just want something that works – but the research showed that men are happier to have several options when it comes to apps.”
Anja was surprised by the difference in communication, with women proving more relaxed with the issue of talking about being late – something that practically no men admitted to during the research. The research highlights a big difference in what the genders were talking about, with woman talking less about mapping as a category, and substantially less about individual apps, too.
Research with a difference
The innovative approach to the research makes a massive difference, offering qualitative data on a much bigger scale than traditionally available.
Anja explains: “In the past it was really hard to get quantified mass-scale data, and we’d have needed to interview thousands of people, which could take years. With Pulsar we were able to become more like observers. By analysing cutting-edge quantitative data from social media and bringing it together with a traditional qualitative method, we could see the emotions and reactions of users.”
It’s not the first time that HERE and Pulsar’s research arm FACE have worked together, and Anja adds: “I really appreciated working with them – we wanted to work with somebody on the same level so we can have an open discussion and go for the same goal; it’s not helpful for us to simply have an agency that follows requests.”
“If you’re going into new areas and breaking ground, avoiding traditional research methods like we did, you need somebody on your side that you can have discussions with, and that’s something that really made the project work.”
The research is paying off, though, with HERE already making changes to its apps. “We’re working on a few projects off the back of the research, although some changes take a bit longer or require more research to better understand the details,” says Anja. “We’ve already introduced our cycling feature, highlighting route topography so you can see how steep the hills are, and that was received very positively.”
Anja emphasises that the research will help to make HERE WeGo a better product for everybody. “It’s not wise to completely ignore a big part of the population. It’s not only a discussion about gender, it’s about understanding what are the needs we and the industry are not fulfilling. By appealing to the part of the population that we’re missing so far, we’re making the app better for everyone.”
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