Celebrating 10 years of professional market research collaboration, GreenBook hosted its annual IIEX North America Insights Innovation Exchange last week in Austin, Texas. The venue is unique among other research conferences; several stages sit within the hustle and bustle of the exhibit floor, and attendees were able to listen in to the presentations of their choice through wireless headphones. This allowed for more speaking options to attend, and close proximity to facilitate networking.
Throughout the dozens of speaking engagements from research agencies and brands alike, one theme stood out as the primary topic of discussion: Artificial Intelligence. As an industry tasked with future-proofing businesses for what tomorrow brings, it is especially important for us to lean in and embrace new technological innovations.
Some key takeaways and learnings from IIEX 2023:
1. Like many industries, AI is the future of market research
AI has the potential to super-charge insights and technology-driven insights as it continues to cause immense disruption throughout the world. Researchers have long walked the balance between the depth of insights and speed to delivery.
As a result of today’s unprecedented market speed (which includes consumer AI product use), it is essential to do both. In order for companies of every size to continue to be competitive, time is especially of the essence. Advancements in AI are empowering researchers to do more with less and increase access to actionable data. As it was covered by several speakers, AI in its current form can already:
a. Generate a survey
b. Generate images or video to compliment findings
c. Summarize key findings from data sets
d. Theme or code data
e. Analyze emotions in voice or video
f. Read facial expressions and body language
g. Detect fraudulent activity in surveys
h. Search articles, documents, videos, web, and write a synopsis
i. Write presentations
Organizations that shy away from embracing AI tools will not be able to compete with the pace that primary research is moving towards. New tools popping up every day will empower organizations to accelerate time to insights (instead of days, it becomes minutes) so that actionable decisions can be made faster.
2. Will AI address (or exasperate) data quality concerns?
There have been plenty of conversations around how AI will affect survey fraud behavior, especially for open ended question types. However, certain conversations have shifted the viewpoint of this narrative, instead thinking on how AI can be leveraged at scale to instead generate data validation and improve quality.
There is no doubt AI will contribute to new types of survey fraud we have yet to see, but AI also opens doors to advances in participant behavior/pattern analysis, IP/source testing, text analysis, bot traps, and more. Given that more tools are emerging and improving every day, it is only a matter of time before our industry also has access to new tools to meet the next wave of tech-savvy fraudsters head on.
3. We are going to see Consumer Insights evolve into Human Insights
At the center of market research has been and always will be the human experience. Our entire industry business model is predicated on truly understanding why humans do what they do.
As it stands today, there is no AI tool that can definitively explain the nuances of emotion and empathy, predict all logical and illogical factors of decision making, conduct face-to-face in-person research, rationalize behavior, demonstrate cultural intelligence, or account for DEI. Even though AI is automating many steps in the process, real people still have a very important place in research.
4. There’s a need for ongoing knowledge and learning
It is clear that AI is moving at breakneck speeds, even by technology’s standards. Teams are tasked with not just understanding these ever-evolving products, but also challenged to think critically on how to apply them to their businesses to keep ahead. And it isn’t just us at our own market research organizations thinking this – every technology-based business is looking to understand AI, what it means for them, and how to implement it.
It is important to not get wrapped up in the novelty – we have a job to do! As we’ve always done in times of change, we must arm our clients with up-to-the-moment insights on the latest and greatest AI tools, make tangible the curated insights of AI advisory panels, facilitate think tanks, and gather data in order to effectively navigate this new frontier.
AI is here to stay, and it will heavily impact market research. Speed remains of paramount importance as our culture continues to progress, and it is on insights companies to embrace change, prepare for the future, and support our clients’ understanding throughout these times.
The traditional role of the researcher is not going anywhere anytime soon, but how researchers conduct business and the scale at which they rely on technology will be highly subject to change. I continue to be on the edge of my seat – many questions will be answered (but perhaps, more will be asked) in the coming years as AI continues to develop new capabilities.