The limits of market research are ever expanding. Fortunately, as traditional methods begin to feel the strain of the modern fast-paced environment, new innovations come in and change the game.
So, what’s next? Well, what’s next is already here – automation! And it is, once again, changing market research!
In a globalized economy that is ever in flux, the use of technology to select research subjects, simulate potential marketing campaigns, and buy advertising space is not only understandable, it’s necessary. And the power of automation and its various applications in the market research realm make it all entirely accessible to businesses of every size.
What Is Automation?
In market research, automation is the use of technology to reduce human intervention in the process. This speaks both to the inefficiencies of excessive human intervention as well as the effectiveness of technology.
While the important role of the researcher in designing and directing the process is undeniable, there are equally undeniable limitations.
The scope of data collection is one great hurdle to the process. Gathering data ends up taking a large chunk of the time allocated to the research at the expense of analysis, in fact.
With automation, the entire data collection process is handled.
It doesn’t require nearly half as much time as the manual alternative. And technology is able to gather data without the bias that often infects the process when it is done manually.
And technology also offers automated analyses, making the manipulation of massive quantities of data possible – and effective.
The data is broken down and categorized into levels that can be offered up for human interpretation, making the work much easier. This further translates to lower costs for the organization.
In the end, automation augments human capacity to conduct effective market research.
How does this look? There are different kinds of market research automation, with benefits that are relative to the preferences and requirements of the organization.
Before we proceed to the types of market research automation, let’s point out some of the misconceptions that impede the adoption of automation in business today.
Some professionals worry that an automated system is going to fall short when applied to their unique needs. However, while complex projects do require customization, most aspects of the process are actually enhanced.
Many also shy away from attempting new technologies in general, vowing that the smartphone is the last new thing they will learn. But there are no grounds for this aversion as many tools and platforms are built with usability as top of mind.
And then some worry that automation requires piecing together many tools as different areas require special platforms. However, the best automation tools can be easily integrated with others, saving the researcher from being overwhelmed.
NetBase Quid® for instance is designed to be the primary tool of consumer and market research but is also equipped with a business intelligence feature – the Intelligence Connector – to allow integration with other business intelligence tools. And we have a team devoted to helping customers do precisely that!
Now to those automation types!
Types of Automation
IBM lists four main types of automation: Basic, process, integrated, and artificial intelligence (AI) automation. We are going to look at each of them and adapt it to market research to see how each may be applied.
1. Basic automation
The first, entry-level, type is basic automation. This is applied to the simplest tasks of the operation. It is best used by organizations that are just starting to digitize their systems; using technology to perform mundane and routine tasks.
In research, simple processes that can be handled by basic automation include the segmentation of research subjects, personalization of studies, as well as centralization of communication systems within the team. While these processes are simple, they are necessary to market research. But they don’t have to take up as much time as they used to.
2. Process automation
Process automation is about creating and maintaining order within the organization.
Maintaining a disorganized performance spread throughout different business processes and applications can create inefficiencies that in the long run morph into real problems. Process automation involves the use of dedicated software to eliminate these inefficiencies and lead to insights that help improve the entire company.
This is a great addition to market research that can help streamline the workflow. For instance, results coming in through email can be automatically sent to your task management software and assigned to the relevant members of the team for analysis.
3. Integrated automation
In integrated automation, machines are guided to perform tasks just like a human would. This is applied to more complex tasks than the previous two levels in that it incorporates an element of machine intelligence.
IBM gives the example of digital workers – machines that are trained to perform specific tasks in partnership with humans. Digital workers are often chatbots that can carry on conversations and decipher human intent, answering questions and taking appropriate action in different scenarios.
4. AI automation
This is the height of progress in market research automation. AI automation is where machines can learn to perform a wide range of tasks based on broad rules set by humans.
In comparison to integrated automation, at this level machines aren’t “trained” to perform specific tasks, they “learn” from previous exposure. And being intelligent, they are not only able to follow specific rules but can also create their own pathways to success based on broad rules.
In market research, this is where you find tools that can be set up to continuously collect and analyze relevant data without human intervention. For example, NetBase Quid® offers capabilities that allow brands to set and forget a continuous loop of discovery and monitoring on preset research fields.
We detail some of those use cases below!
AI Automation: Use Cases
Automation happens constantly online. We see it in a variety of use cases, with three top contenders including social media monitoring, natural language processing, and conversational software.
1. Social media monitoring
Social media is one of the prime grounds for market research data. Researchers are using AI automation to discover and monitor interesting conversations across different platforms. This is referred to as social listening. It is the precursor to social intelligence.
2. Natural language processing (NLP)
While social listening helps researchers uncover interesting conversations, social intelligence yields the important market research data within. It provides meaning and context to what is observed. This would be very difficult to automate without NLP because social media data, being text-based, is highly unstructured. NLP breaks down the compounds into elements and uses sentiment analysis, along with other indicators to break down their meaning. This is how researchers find the data they need through social intelligence.
3. Conversational software
“Conversational software” is just a fancier name for chatbot. Chatbots are widely used in marketing, but they can also be used in market research. For instance, researchers can set up chatbot surveys and interviews that can be customized to the respondent. The conversational software would ask tailored questions and take the survey down specific paths depending on who is on the other end. This is a long way from the old way of setting up surveys and interviews en masse.
Advantages of Automation
Business leaders, marketers, and research professionals are all singing the praises of automation. The following are some of the most important advantages of automation in market research today:
1. Reduce costs
By taking care of the mundane tasks, basic automation can free up the researcher’s time for the more intellectually demanding work.
If you go two levels higher and incorporate integrated automation, the data collection process becomes even easier and faster. All this means that the research is time efficient and your research team is properly compensated.
2. Handle more data in less time
Modern research is an ongoing rather than periodic process. Savvy businesses simply set up the system and leave it running.
They activate alerts for when an interesting piece of information comes up and make sure the data is shared with the relevant individuals and departments. With the power of AI automation in their hands, massive quantities of data don’t faze them; it’s welcome.
3. Improve accuracy
In modern market research, the excessively manual approach is not sustainable. Automation is inevitable to avoid inaccuracy, without suffocating other aspects of the project.
With process automation, you can improve accuracy by bringing much needed order to the research process. And you can avoid bias inherent in any researcher-driven explorations, which are typically the starting point of any research effort.
4. Eliminate internal barriers
The time it takes for information to be captured and go from one point to where it’s needed is what ultimately determines how useful it is (or isn’t). Even the best insights do not hold any value if they reach the decision makers too late.
Additionally, working in a decentralized environment can lead to information leakage, where insights are lost because the systems and people on the team are not well-connected. These are some of the internal barriers that market research automation can eliminate and empower you to solve your research problem
With automation, market research can achieve much more for the business than it can without it. If you would like to see how NetBase Quid® can improve your market research efforts through automation, reach out for a demo today!