How AI Will Impact Market Research, and What You Should Do About It
AI is impacting and will continue to impact the Market Research industry. In fact, MR companies have been using AI for the past 10 years.
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You can’t turn around anymore without reading or hearing about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) has impacted one industry or another. Retail? Check. Healthcare? Check. Even farming uses AI for some functions. So, it is no surprise that AI is impacting and will continue to impact the market research industry. In fact, MR companies have been using AI for the past 10 years.
AI is not just ChatGPT, although that platform is currently getting the most attention. Let’s define terms. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a broad term that refers to any automated process using algorithms to produce, manipulate, or synthesize data.
Generative AI is a type of AI that uses machine learning to generate new outputs based on the data it has been trained on. Traditional AI has focused on detecting patterns, making decisions, honing analytics, classifying data, and detecting fraud, while generative AI produces new content by responding to prompts or queries.
For the most part, AI is expected to impact the market research industry positively. A recent Qualtrics survey of 250 market research decision makers found that 93% see AI as an opportunity for our industry, and both older and younger managers share this view.
The Impact of AI in Market Research
Let’s take stock of why such a positive impact might be expected. In general, our industry is highly resistant to change. While businesses generally understand the value of market research, their reluctance to innovate, experiment, and evolve has resulted in market research processes that take a long time and are often very expensive. So instead of MR being widely used for all types of business questions, many companies relegate MR projects only to the most critical issues and opportunities (e.g., product launches). Additionally, many smaller businesses may choose not to do market research at all due to the expense or because they don’t have the time to wait for the results.
Generative AI promises to save time and money in many MR processes, potentially making the industry more accessible to our clients. Some processes that can be completed much more quickly and at a much lower cost include advanced data analysis, open-end and verbatim text analysis, data collection, and data cleaning. Indeed, with advanced data analytics and improved open-end verbatim text analysis, we might actually be able to improve the respondent experience with market research. But that does not necessarily mean fewer jobs; it may mean new jobs. And interestingly, applying AI to all of these processes should result in higher data quality.
What does the MR industry have to do to get ready for AI? While everyone is familiar with the term “AI,” fewer believe they know what it is. So, we must first educate ourselves about the technology and keep up with how AI is rapidly evolving. Many companies are working in AI, each carving out its specialty. Potential government regulatory actions and data privacy protections may impact how AI is eventually commercialized. The entire space is evolving rapidly, and we won’t know exactly how everything will shake out for some time.
The second thing we need to do is stay calm. While AI is making inroads into market research now, it will be years before we really understand the impact on the industry overall. How many years? Who knows? Estimates vary between 2 and 10 years. So, as you consider AI’s impact on your job and career, keep timing in mind. As AI’s presence increases in market research, remember that humans will still have a role in checking AI’s accuracy, refining its results, deciding how to apply the tools, and sharing insights across the company.
AI is not a solution in search of a problem; it is here to stay. Making room for AI means adapting to a major new presence in the MR industry. There is exciting potential that applying AI to MR processes can help us create a more client- and respondent-focused approach to surveys and MR in general. Optimistically, AI will help make MR insights available to more companies and more audiences within those companies.
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