Back in the day, when I did my first market research project at a media company there wasn’t much technology involved honestly. Here’s the project; handed out on pieces of paper. Certainly, we’ve come a long way from that time period with market research technology. That includes market research automation, which can make my life even easier. It can take tasks off my plate. And sometimes it can do them better.
In this article, I want to dive into the topic of how market research automation can help. But what does that even mean? Efficiency in process perhaps. Does it get done quicker? Is it done better?
Take the example of automatic transcription of responses. While I personally have transcribed responses before, the task can take a while and is kind of mundane. The right transcription technology takes that time-consuming task off my plate and I can focus my energy on a higher impact task – like analyzing the sentiment of responses. Like any new workflows, it starts with a thought-out plan.
“We think about the research process,” said Raj Manocha, CEO of Methodify, on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show. “What part of your process can we automate to make it more seamless? We try to figure out how to turn research that used to take 6-8 weeks into 1-2 days.”
When should we use market research automation?
“There’s a time and a place and sometimes in the industry we tell this story that it’s for everything,” Raj said. “It’s about having a tool in your tool kit. It’s about having the right tool for the right project. I think sometimes that message gets lost. It’s about balance.”
As always, make sure you know what you’re trying to accomplish. What problem do I need to solve? And what technology solutions can help me with those?
“What do you get measured on?” Raj said. “Once you get it right it’s perfect.”
Really, we’re in this great time period, he says, where insights professionals have choices.
“Everyone talks about how automation might replace the researcher but it’s actually the opposite,” Raj said. “The researcher has to be even more powerful now to understand what tool to use when and what’s going to bring value when.”
Sebastian Schuliaquer, insights director at Kellogg, echoed that to use marketing research technology well people still need to be involved. Yes, technology can help us, but we still need to involve insights professionals to give us the context.
“We’ve never had so much data available to the point where it can be overwhelming,” he said on “Reel Talk.”
And more data gets added constantly, he said. Some of it contradicts each other. Market research automation certainly can help but humans still need to look at the data as well.
Where can market research automation have the biggest impact?
Certainly, where it makes certain tasks easier. Another area that can be easily forgotten is research that we wouldn’t have done without automation.
Raj calls that “below the line research.” It includes projects that wouldn’t have happened anyways before market research automation was a thing.
“That’s actually a big recognition of what automation brings to the table,” he said.
Market research automation can also help democratize research. For example, Raj mentioned developers could use tools to get quick feedback on what they were designing.
“Can you think of a time in the past where that would happen?” he asked. “Insights can become more transformative across an organization and not just in a silo.”
I certainly remember times where decisions like that were made purely on gut feel by whomever had the highest ranking title in the room. Being able to quickly get this feedback from actual users it’s much more helpful.
Automation of outputs
“The creation of charts or dashboards,” she said. “The time that teams would spend building slides, creating charts that was such a big time spend. That backend automation is hugely helpful.”
Just by highlighting responses from the market research online community, I can easily add a soundbite to a video highlight reel or just share that one soundbite with a colleague.
No editing or any of those other tradition video tasks required.
Say yes to the right things
In your implementation of market research automation it is important to say yes to the right tools and no to the wrong ones. Saying yes to the wrong things can lead to problems when it comes to implementation of new tools. For example, let’s say somebody installs the wrong software into their process. That can leave a bad taste in people’s mouths and they might be hesitant to try other similar tools, said Raj.
Consider that there’s 800-some companies in the space, he said. With an estimated spend of $16 billion, insights professionals get pitched all the time. If they sign up for a trial and the trial goes badly that can impact their future buying decisions.
“People will buy less and less,” Raj said. “The industry wants to grow but not at the cost of the client.”
What’s the one solution for market research automation?
I’ve always been a fan a finding one integrated solution for everything. Of course, bundling software is much easier in theory than practice. In fact, Raj says there isn’t one perfect solution for everything. That’s why you have to layer solutions and pick the ones that you need.
“As an industry we are challenged to work together and that’s why you see the rise of APIs and open-source things,” he said.
The mix of technology and people
It’s also good to remember that technology can help us but we still need the market researcher to shepherd things through. Prioritize and make other decisions that machines can’t.
“I think you’ll see a lot of these research technology companies transform into research houses,” Raj said. ‘Not just tech companies but full service companies driven by tech.”
He also reminds us of the importance of understanding your personal needs. Not every company needs every research technology solution. Some need augmented reality to show off their products, others need ways to have better in-depth remote interviews and others have completely different needs.
It’s about what you’re trying to solve for and not what you’re hearing about,” Raj said. “What sometimes happens is people see these great case studies and stories and they want to mimic that at their company faces and that doesn’t always work.”
The volume of trying different software solutions
Of course, there is some risk involved, said Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing at Voxpopme and host of “Reel Talk.” And maybe that’s why sometimes the industry is moving slower. Picking the wrong technology that doesn’t help you solve your problems or make things easier for you is time-consuming, costs money and people will feel down about the process.
He added that by trying different things there are a lot of learnings that are involved. Use those learnings to move forward.
“As an insights director – or whatever your role is – just feel comfortable dipping your toe in and it might be freezing water,” Raj said. “It’s okay for it not to work. Just don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Try things out. Pilot things. We need to learn from stuff.”
And when something does work, celebrate the small wins and expedite projects from there forward.
But before you start, be clear about what you are trying to accomplish. What’s the measurement?
“Figure out what’s a win for your company and tell your vendor that,” Raj said. “The more they know about what you are looking for and what that win state is going to look like. The more you can share the better. We want to put you in good states but we need to have more information.”
Being clear about those things can help you understand really quickly whether or not one solution is the right fit or not.
Jenn added that she’s seeing more teams talking about being able to fail.
“We need to be able to fail in order to move forward to find success,” she said. “That’s a great move for the industry if more people can adopt that mindset.”
How to prove that the market research tech stack is helping the business
Many insights professionals are measured on:
- are they providing the right research
- impact on business
“The research tech stack should be solving a bunch of those challenges,” Raj said.
Indecision alone can cost nine days in a year of an employees’ time. Removing indecisiveness can have a massive impact, he said. Turning research quickly, let’s say a day or two – which you can do with video surveys – can give you the opportunity to move faster.
Also think of the opportunity technology can offer.
“When I think of research, I think of what’s the cost of a mistake?” said Dave Carruthers, CEO and Founder of Voxpopme, on the “This is Product Management Podcast.” “What is the cost of a bad decision? That number becomes so big that it’s almost unbelievable when you share it with people.”
For example, Dave shared the story of a large brand that was going to launch a product. Running a quick study through the Voxpopme community helped them understand the problems the launch would have. Changes were made based on the feedback received and the newly designed launch was a success.
Research – and using the right market research automation – can help avoid costly mistakes.