In our latest blog, our Research Exec, Jamal, looks at some of the technologies influencing market research now and in the future.
How will market research be shaped by technology?
Times are changing and technology is advancing at a serious rate. Market research has been around for over a hundred years now, but the industry can never afford to stand still. Methods of data collection have adapted, for example, CAPI replacing paper questionnaires, digital ethnography, and online surveys; but as new methods and technologies emerge, we have begun to wonder how disruptive they may be in years to come. Here, we explore a few exciting new technologies and how we might be able to harness them to improve the ways we engage with consumers to advance insight and understanding.
The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is well known, particularly its references in pop culture and films over the last few decades (I, Robot, Black Mirror, etc.). Over recent years, AI has cemented itself in many people’s everyday lives, be that talking to your ‘smart assistant’ speaker at home or even turning the heating on using your phone. How does this relate to market research? With AI technologies developing, for example ChatGPT, it is starting to become an option for how data is designed, gathered and analysed, with researchers needing to be prepared to hand over tasks to AI in a search of improved data quality.
Qualtrics surveyed 250 market research decision-makers to ask them how much they believe AI will impact the industry. The results paint a clear picture, with 93% of researchers seeing AI as an opportunity and only 7% seeing it as a threat. However, a higher proportion of respondents think that AI will cut jobs in market research (35%) than think it will create jobs (26%). Many expect AI to impact the industry through advanced data analysis, with 63% of researchers saying it will take over data analysis within ten years. Once AI is able to sufficiently analyse data, it may soon be smart enough to explain the findings. AI may expand the industry and its capabilities; therefore, adopting these technologies is likely to become a necessity.
Similarly, ‘simulated environments’ (e.g., virtual/augmented reality) such as the metaverse are making waves in many different industries (including university education). These artificial environments can be used to test new brands or products and understand consumer decision making and awareness. Traditionally, there would have been a need for a physical test ‘shop’ for a controlled trial, but these technologies can offer a more efficient alternative through 3D visualisation and virtual reality. In addition, using simulated environments lowers the costs of production and ‘going to market’ as products/processes can be modified quickly and easily.
As the technology advances, the possibilities will become greater, as it will be clearer what exactly the metaverse can offer and what its role in market research could be. Given the pace of advancements in this technology, it is not unreasonable to think it won’t be long until people are spending large portions of their time in virtual reality. This is an interesting prospect for market research, and how this technology could be harnessed.
Lastly, we have consumer neuroscience, which combines consumer research with neuroscience to understand why consumers behave the way they do. Researchers can use technologies such as eye-tracking and ‘EEG’ (electroencephalography – measuring brain activity by using electrodes placed on the surface of the scalp) to map out the factors that affect decision-making and purchasing behaviour. This is one of many advanced neurotechnologies that could be harnessed by researchers.
As a research method, it is still in a relatively early stage of development, so it is hard to tell what impact it could have on market research overall. It could be penned as one to watch as different consumer applications that use this technology emerge.
There is so much potential for market research to embrace pioneering technologies, but as for adapting to change, the dilemma remains – whether to adapt today or wait for tomorrow? And what will the consequences of this decision be?