The market research industry is undergoing a transformation where laborious tasks involving data collection, analysis and reporting are increasingly being automated. While automation of market research tasks has been going on for a long time, where technology replaces manual tasks performed by a human, it surely has intensified in recent years. With the addition of Artificial Intelligence (AI), we are now beginning to see new ways of conducting market research altogether.
AI is the ability for a computer to perform tasks that have typically been performed by humans. In market research, this includes speech and visual recognition as well as comprehension and the ability to make decisions based on this. These are just some of the many things that artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly capable of doing, and with great accuracy. While the capability of AI technology has improved a lot in just the past few years, it’s important to recognize that AI is far away from replacing many of the tasks that are involved with developing actionable consumer insights.
Perhaps the most promising potential for AI in market research involves tasks that simply aren’t possible for humans to do. In this sense it’s less about replacing humans with technology and more about using AI technology to expand market research capabilities. For example, AI enabled technology can be used to collect and analyze data in ways that would be impossible for a market researcher to accomplish on their own.
As AI technology can be used to collect and analyze unstructured data such as speech, text, and images, it has implications for how market research is conducted. Historically, most unstructured text based data originated from speech collected through interviews, performed by a human person either in person or over the phone. The presence of the interviewer was critical in order to engage in probing where the interviewer could follow up on something the respondent said. For example: “you mentioned there were a lot of people at the mall, how does that make you feel?” Through probing, the interviewer can help the respondent to further expand on their thoughts to get a better understanding of the topic that is being discussed. AI technology is increasingly capable of conducting such probing. With the prospect of conducting high quality interviews without the presence of an interviewer, the number of interviews that can be conducted can be scaled up to achieve a representative sample. Such scaling of qualitative data collection has typically been hard to achieve through in-person interviews, as it’s time consuming and oftentimes cost prohibitive.
When market researchers embrace technology to automate tedious and laborious tasks, it frees up time that can be spent on activities that require high thinking power where technology isn’t capable of replacing the creativity of the human brain. In addition, when you add AI to automated tasks, the market researchers toolbox expands and the ability to develop actionable insights is greatly enhanced.
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