Automation and the New Frontiers of Market Research

The following is a guest contributed post by Wale Omiyale, SVP of Market Research at Confirmit

Market Research, like the rest of the global economy, is reinventing itself. End users are more demanding than ever; they need faster, cheaper and more strategic insights to drive business decisions – and they need it now. While Market Researchers have been focused for years on meeting this ever-growing demand, new technologies have emerged to automate activities and revolutionize the approach.

Automation and Market Research have a long intertwined history. Simpler forms, including questionnaire scanning, was created in direct response to the need for faster results and helped speed up the process of data capture. Modern automation tools have been developed with this same need in mind. The difference is that these tools now span the entire lifecycle of Market Research and bring a wealth of benefits – not just to end clients, but also to research organizations themselves.

Social Media Listening

With approximately two billion active social media accounts on a variety of platforms, it has become clear that a tremendous amount of social interaction is conducted digitally. Timelines on Twitter, Youtube and Facebook are digital documents of thoughts and experiences over time. They use algorithms to automate shares, tags, and tweets in what most people regard as a generally helpful way, serving up micro-moments so users can focus on enjoying and discussing what they find meaningful in those streams of thoughts, pictures and videos.

Considering the importance of a consumer’s socially shared opinions, it is imperative that businesses know what is being said about their brands across all social channels. Social listening can give brands the language that its customers use and brands can use this to match their campaigns to what customers want and need. This has been a key driver for developing automated analysis tools that provide a broader, more holistic research view into key social performance indicators (likes, follows, etc.), market sentiment, and also, your client’s competitive positioning. Business can now analyze unsolicited feedback without manually monitoring review sites, forums, discussion boards, and blogs.

Smartphone-Based Research

With an even greater penetration and more users than social media, mobile technology is a key area where Market Researchers should be looking to innovate their offerings. Studies have shown that users dedicate more mobile time to using applications than searching the mobile web. And, considering the conveniences that applications offer, it isn’t much of a surprise.

It should also come as no surprise that the overwhelming majority of mobile users have enabled location on their mobile phone to facilitate app function. The main benefit of location services is the ability to personalize their mobile experience by tailoring results or apps services to their location. Mobile location features not only drive user downloads due to added convenience, but Market Researchers can leverage a user’s location via a fully-branded panel app and their mobile phone’s GPS. With this technology, they can automatically deploy in-the-moment surveys. This powerful technique can be used for entrance and exit surveys to support customer research or competitive research, for example.

For situations where GPS location isn’t precise enough, beacon technology can be a great alternative. Beacons are small devices which leverage the panellist’s mobile Bluetooth and can be placed in strategic locations, for example, within a store. When a customer comes within a certain proximity of the beacon, a survey can be automatically triggered.

Self-Service Programs

Automation is driving organizations to deliver ‘self-serve’ research programs. This allows researchers to select the most appropriate tools for their project, choose the audience or sample, as well as the type of reporting they need to produce, all from a single source. Not only can this shorten timelines, but it can also simplify results sharing and analysis through easy-access dashboards.

However, this does not negate the need for in-depth research programs. Rather, it is a new layer that sits on top of substantial analysis and insight. What clients need now is quick insight, though sometimes they only want to focus on questions that get to the heart of their issue most quickly. With automation tools to support this way of working, they may still get 80 percent of the information they need in 25 percent of the time.

Developments in automation are taking us towards a hybrid model of research – where the needs of clients are met for whatever level of program they require – and can be delivered in the time-frames and formats most suited to each.

Fewer Tasks for Interviewers

With administrative tasks being capably handled by automation tools, researchers have seen a shift in their roles and daily tasks. Some may see this as a structural issue, but to the contrary, it frees up researchers and allows them to focus on high-value processes that differentiate their offerings.

In fact, many research teams are evolving into specialist hubs, where researchers become data scientists and reports become strategic business guidance. Automation is increasing the requirement for more broadly-skilled project managers, where in-depth subject knowledge is no longer required, but an understanding of the many automated steps of the research process is crucial. This certainly impacts the role of the research subject matter expert, but allows research organizations to be more flexible in recruitment and service delivery.

A New World of Insights and Consulting

We are increasingly seeing a new world play out in the market, with a number of traditional MR agencies no longer identifying themselves in the MR category and the push from certain sections of the industry to rebrand “Market Research” into “Insights”.

Automation is here to stay, whether we like it or not, as will the need to deliver results faster and more easily. While there is still much more opportunity for it to evolve, it’s clear that automation is already firmly entrenched in our day-to-day processes – and that’s a good thing. It enables Market Researchers to not only broaden their research but also improve their competitive positioning in this challenging marketplace.

About the Author

Wale Omiyale has over a decade’s experience in the Market Research industry and has a detailed understanding of the issues facing the industry as a result of maturation and technological advancement.

Wale works closely with some of the world’s leading Market Research agencies, helping them to implement innovative MR programmes using the most up-to-date data collection channels and practices available.