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Unleashing the Power of AI: The Future of Market Research

Redefining market research with AI: The changing landscape and its implications explored

Market Researchers: New Meets Old

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the buzzword of the moment, and it’s easy to see why. AI is transforming the way we live and work, and it’s predicted to become an even greater influence in shaping our future. As consumers, it is the new norm to have a chat with our Alexa or Siri, but the capabilities of AI spread astronomically further. From complex medical diagnoses and financial predictions to digital design and content creation, AI is changing the game in every industry. But what is AI? Let’s ask it…

"Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to the ability of machines to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence, such as understanding natural language, recognising images, making decisions, and solving problems." - Open AI, Chat GPT

This article explores the impact of AI on its #1 biggest target- The Market Research Industry. Say goodbye to manual data collection and tedious analysis, and hello to lightning-fast insights and results. This is not just a revolution, it’s a seismic shift of what the very industry is and what it can achieve. But what does this mean for research professionals? Will AI abolish hard earned careers, or will it spark an awakening of new market innovation and jobs?

An industry in decline

In order to understand the transformational effect of AI on the market research industry, it’s important to understand the factors that contributed to the decline of the sector in its traditional form. Market research has primarily relied on consumer insight: Questionnaires, observations, interviews, and customer feedback. The bottom line is, Traditional market research projects are labour intensive, expensive and time consuming, and the reason to why market research is almost only used for critical decisions like branding, product design and price.

Consumer insight techniques are effective at gaining rich qualitative data, data that explains consumer thoughts and feelings. However, that data is often generated from a small group; it’s almost impossible to gain data from every customer. Insight can only understand the past, and the researcher is always left to define the next steps on their own. The unavoidable drawbacks of traditional research demand a huge technological change, ensuring the industry aligns itself with current digital trends and developments. Big data has been a key igniting force for the decline in the traditional research model, however research professionals believe that it is AI that will seal the industries fate.

A new reality with AI

AI is making it possible to analyse massive amounts of data in a fraction of the time it would take a human, and it's delivering results that are more accurate and cost-effective. This is not just a technological breakthrough; it's a fundamental shift in the way businesses operate. AI makes market research feasible beyond high stake decisions; businesses can employ AI-driven market research to everyday actions, adaptable actions that use real-time data. With formidably more trackable data, algorithms can create accurate predictions and forecasts generating a future-focused research approach, an invaluable asset to decision makers.

Forward thinking organisations are already using AI-driven market research in ways that demonstrate how the new approach expands access to data and drives strategic decision-making. For example, Amazon Go. A cashierless grocery store that requires no in-store payment, customers can simply walk straight out with their chosen goods, the shop knows exactly what they have got, and their Amazon account will be charged accordingly. Consumers are being constantly tracked, motion detecting cameras find patterns in what products customers pick up, put down, walk past or don’t even look at, and AI analyses this information in real-time. Amazon ultimately gains a wealth of useful information and data on every customer and every product and more, the perfect research model!

Companies incorporating AI-driven market research in their operations will be among the first to gain a sizeable edge over competition. AI will democratise market research by expanding access and eliminating the need for research skills. Market research will become more widely applicable, every movement a consumer makes will be automatically tracked, recorded, and analysed, without the organisation even noticing. This is the research power of AI. But if everything can be done without human interaction, what does the future look like for professional researchers?

A financial cost or human cost?

Does the financial gain in innovation mean more to businesses than the cost of losing a skilled employee? The sad truth is yes. A traditional focus group study can range from $4,000 to $12,000, focus groups usually consist of a small number of individuals creating one report. Today AI can scan billions of data points and generate tens of thousands of data reports. The cost saving using AI is staggering; while it would take an army of analyst’s months or years to scan the same amount of data, AI can do it in minutes.

Where does this leave researchers? A recent Qualtrics survey report on 250 market researchers, states that 50% have considered additional training, some are navigating to new roles, and some are leaving the industry entirely. It is undeniable that these jobs will be the cost of innovation. However, optimistic researchers maintain a positive outlook on the future; AI can be a supportive addition to their work, there are even jobs that researchers wish to off-load to AI, making their jobs easier and more efficient, for example, localising surveys to different countries, data cleaning and survey programming. Others have identified areas they feel maintain human benefit, for instance creating surveys, findings recommendations and presenting these results to business leaders. For the majority, a career in this industry is obsolete, unfortunately many researchers are predestined to redundancy in order for businesses to operate with a higher rate of profitability. Is this inevitable? Is this fair? Is this right? We conclude with a statement of hope, hope that AI will not cease jobs but support them, and that businesses will provide the necessary help to those whose job is unavoidably terminated. AI is innovation, and innovation money.

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