Does Automation in Market Research Mean Sacrificing Humanness?

Robotic hand accessing on laptop

Here’s the short answer: Heck no! But the long answer is much more fun.

Automation has been a reality of human progress for centuries. In fact, automation has been making our lives simpler, more convenient, and even less dangerous since the first automated, water-powered spinning mill was developed way back in 1771. Continuing through our advancements in industrial manufacturing, the use of various control systems to power and operate equipment freed up workers to pursue other disciplines, fueling innovation and advancing our society as whole.

But automation is definitely a double-edged sword. The freeing up of industrial and manual workers meant a lot of people were left without jobs, replaced by machinery that was cheaper to maintain overall. And in our modern age, particularly within the market research industry, many fear that automation of the research process will mean losing the human connection and interaction that make consumer insights so impactful.

Automation Doesn’t Limit Interaction—It Enables It

The mission of market research is to understand human behavior; so it’s a perfectly reasonable fear that our increasingly digital existence and inclinations towards automation might corrupt this goal. But if anything, automation is the tool that actually allows researchers to enjoy even more interaction with target audiences.

As brands rely more and more on passively collected big data, it becomes easy to lose sight of the humans represented in those data points. In other words, it becomes easy to lose the context for these indirect and often superficial insights. This is the kind of automation that threatens quality, actionable market research; but it’s also the automation that drives the need for more connection with consumers.

Automating the research process doesn’t mean automating interactions with respondents; it means automating all the processes that don’t add value. Just because we have access to a lot of automatically collected data doesn’t mean it’s the only data we use. And online market research isn’t free of conversational exchanges: they’re just conducted digitally. The goal is not to eliminate humans from either end of market research—it’s to eliminate the time it takes to write transcripts, to recruit participants, to do things like scheduling focus groups and ordering lunches. Essentially, automation in market research is meant to resolve the steps that actually take you away from interacting with humans.

And It’s Only the Beginning

As we’ve already covered in our 2017 GRIT Commentary, automation is only part of the story. Automating the logistics of research leaves researchers free to not only focus on gathering quality insights, but to continue innovating on the methodologies that get them there. Leveraging the tools, time, and resources that automation facilitates enables market researchers to take the next step of addressing research problems with specificity and synergy. And qualitative research that continues to blend the advantages of automation and human interaction will help the industry continue to connect with consumers without wasting time and energy on planning, managing, and coordinating the process.

To learn more about how the unique combination of automation and humanness that defines agile market research can bring the consumer’s voice into your product development early and often enough to confidently get your concepts to market faster, download our eBook below.

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