Are you sick of hearing about ChatGPT and generative AI yet? The truth is technology like this is going to keep advancing at record speed, and every industry must keep up. However, with new innovations coming at us from all directions, it can be easy to forget about the basics. In market research, it’s crucial to remain grounded in research fundamentals. While exploring new technologies and their potential benefits is part of future-proofing the industry, it’s equally important to ensure that these innovations can confidently deliver valuable insights. Otherwise, you’ll be left with technology that’s searching for a problem to solve. And that rarely works out well.
Let’s start with the future
For millennia (okay, maybe just for decades), market researchers have been instrumental in helping organizations understand consumers, providing a window into human behavior. The evolutionary changes that are already hitting the industry are at such a scale that they will certainly make the ‘old ways of working’ feel like they were relevant a millennia ago. Some veterans in the industry remember when this space, as a whole, was extremely slow to adopt new ways of doing things. How long did we talk about making surveys mobile friendly? Not to mention bringing them online in a usable format at all.
Not so any longer. Daily, more and more market research companies jumping on the AI bandwagon, for example. And, although quicker to employ new approaches and technology like this, the sector continues to face numerous challenges, including data quality, survey fraud, respondent engagement challenges, speed to insights, and more. AI can be instrumental in addressing these issues, such as identifying survey fraudsters and preventing them from entering the data collection phase – among other useful applications.
Taking a thoughtful approach to new technology offerings
While generative AI shows promise for market research, it is still in its infancy (but it is growing up rather quickly). More testing and development is required to ensure AI-enabled platforms can deliver results as effectively and reliably as traditional methods. This then becomes a challenge to established software vendors in the market research space, as they must ensure they continue to innovate whilst delivering on research fundamentals.
All the futuristic technology in the world won’t add value without a solid foundation in the basics. Plus, employment of new technology must deliver meaningful results, so it behooves companies to take a very measured approach in its implementation, use, and marketing.
This cautious, thoughtful approach may go against the grain of many software providers’ modus operandi. But approaching the whirlwind of technological advancements in this manner makes better sense.
Generative AI has been on the horizon for some time now. Chatbots, a primitive version of ChatGPT, have been around for well over a decade in the commercial world. And it’s only now that they’re finally living up to the promises made so long ago, thanks to technology advancements and access to data. In fact, HAL from 2001: A space odyssey is over 55 years old! So, no one can say we haven’t had time to prepare ourselves for the future.
The challenge of adopting new technologies in the insights sector
A lot of promising technology solutions entered the industry, made a lot of noise, yet failed to grab hold of the market. One reason for this is that market researchers tend to be creatures of habit, with confidence levels in outputs increasing with experience. Researchers’ confidence is in the analyses and reports they produce – the plethora of crosstabs in 100-page PowerPoint decks with static findings. What this also has done is set expectations of stakeholders too – they’ve always done it this way, so this is how it will continue to be done. But, is this the most productive way for them to deliver insights and value? That’s the million-second question.
This familiarity and comfort with traditional methods can be a significant obstacle to adopting new technology and platforms, which may require a mindset shift and additional training. Even though some platforms have been developed specifically with market researchers in mind, using time-tested, statistical algorithms to find significant trends and patterns in market survey data, it’s still an uphill battle to break old habits and implement fit-for-purpose technology that can truly help them do aspects of their jobs in minutes rather than days or weeks.
Again, it’s all about balance
While the excitement surrounding new technology like AI is justified, market researchers must not lose sight of the core methodologies and principles that drive meaningful insights. That’s why it’s essential to have innovations like generative AI and the essential fundamentals of market research on either side of the scales. And even more imperative to strike a careful balance of the two.
As AI and other new technologies continue to evolve, we must all work together to ensure that these advancements serve as powerful tools to enhance the job of the researcher – that market researchers feeding into the process too. While the industry adapts to the transformative potential of AI, leaders must continue to keep their eye on the ball when it comes to ethical considerations, the empowerment of the research community and the delivery of insights that increase human understanding. By embracing both the future and the enduring fundamentals, market research can thrive in an era of technological possibilities, providing even greater value to businesses and society as a whole.