With just a single glimpse at the latest statistics, one could easily assume that the market research industry is going down. But the slight decrease is often misunderstood; rather than signifying hard times, it actually proves that market research is shifting radically.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is playing a major part in this. Due to the new technological capabilities it brings, traditional market research is becoming extinct.
Whether it’s natural language processing, or social media analysis, or processing open-end data, AI can now deliver solid insights with unprecedented speed and accuracy.
What’s the role of human workers in this arrangement? Does it mean that researchers are replaceable by advanced algorithms? Hardly: To fully leverage technology and generate the most effective insights, there needs to be a strong yet balanced human-AI interaction.
What can market research do to make the best of this relationship?
Let’s rethink market research
We often think that data nowadays is as precious as diamonds – but that’s not entirely true. Data is like carbon that we need to process to turn it into something valuable.
If we want solid and dynamic insights that will power our decision-making, rather than just pieces of data, we need to adopt a different approach: a qualitative, rather than a quantitative one.
While quantitative research is more survey-based, qualitative research can analyze billions of data points from diverse sources – both traditional and novel ones, such as social media – and encourage a more in-depth understanding and “reading between the lines” analysis.
This way, it can bring accurate conclusions even in the most niche areas.
If we realize that these are the outcomes we want to achieve, it’s easy to see how well the capabilities of AI fit this scheme. With Big Data analytics, we can structure great amounts of previously unstructured data and process it with AI-based tools.
Subsequently, this requires inputs from researchers, showing how qualitative research – and human-AI interaction specifically – is the pillar of market research’s future.
The shifting consumer demand plays into this trend as well. Rather than complex reports, audiences now seek shorter and smarter formats to quickly catch-up with their industry news or find a specific solution to a problem, rather than going through hundreds of pages of information that might be irrelevant to the issues they’re facing.
There’s also an increased appetite for near real-time analytics, demonstrating that market research must leverage effective solutions to meet tighter time frames.
Humans are irreplaceable
AI enables researchers to switch from menial and repetitive tasks to higher-level problem solving and impactful storytelling while adapting new skill sets. By driving the technology to its full potential, we’re also finding ways to craft the best human talent.
AI is here for standardized tasks, but it can never really provide deep insights or make a choice on important investment issues. It isn’t equipped to understand unforeseen obstacles and volatile dynamics, particularly characteristic of the current world. That’s why the human aspect will never fully go away.
Human touch is particularly important in complementing research methods. While AI brings diverse information to the table, there’s a lot it can’t do.
For example, a random non-human facing interaction with industry players through surveys may bring responses that are often inaccurate and misleading, mainly due to little engagement.
Some research methods are simply more effective when led by a human. After all, careful examination of facts and numbers doesn’t always generate correct conclusions.
Data reveals a lot – but it can hide the overall picture.
Human researchers can form long-lasting bonds with key industry players – something that significantly facilitates future data gathering.
This is particularly valuable when observing industry trends, on-ground challenges, or micro-strategies, which is difficult to access only through simple quantitative analysis.
Researchers will also continue to drive AI explainability. As reliance on big data requires the analysis of huge amounts of data, there needs to be transparency.
Researchers need to be open about their data collection and analysis methods to defend their insights accordingly – a paramount aspect in building client trust.
Delegate right, delegate smart
So while we have the role of human researchers defined, what’s that of AI? Market research should make the technology a natural part of the workflow and clearly delegate the tasks while focusing on constant improvement upon the processes.
One of the areas where AI shines is advanced data analytics. It simplifies the process of gathering and processing large volumes of data and reaching out to a larger and more diverse sample group – something that would take 30 days to do manually could be accomplished in just a few hours with AI.
The same goes for statistical analysis – manually, a graph would take at least half an hour to build, while with AI, it’s a matter of only a few minutes.
In terms of secondary research, AI can leverage natural language processing and text analysis. With tools like Google Cloud Natural Language API that distinguishes specific sentiment behind each sentence, researchers can access comprehensive data to power their insights.
The same goes for social media analytics: To get a 360 view of how a product, service, or brand is perceived, AI can analyze consumer response on platforms like Facebook or Twitter – and even analyze the content of videos on YouTube and elsewhere.
There’s also a great opportunity for dynamic micro-segmentation models. They help marketing teams manage targeting and centralize the information they’ve gathered.
This can be then analyzed through AI-based tools that will guide the optimal segmentation. Such strategies could have 10x the impact of traditional market research.
AI isn’t there to compete with researchers. It’s there to work with them. The future success of market research will depend on the ability to strike the balance between both and provide solution-based, real-time, and relevant insights to clients across industries.
Disclosure: This story is brought to you through an ESPACIO portfolio company.