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The Rise of Machines: Is DIY Going to Eliminate Your Job?

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By Sami Kaipa

As we bring a fully self-serve GlimpzIt offering live to the market in the next few days, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on the revolution that is DIY research. The value of DIY research tools in a word – TREMENDOUS. I don’t think many sensible individuals disagree at this point. The concept of DIY, even just a few years after its birth, doesn’t divide market researchers like it had before. There is a very safe niche for full service market research professionals amidst the indispensable tools on the market – that niche is to use these tools to more effectively make sense of the world. And smart researchers and marketers get that. These tools help researchers do more, faster and better, and they help marketers do research that was otherwise untenable.

Today’s DIY tools accomplish varying degrees of work. In some cases, they help with data collection, in other cases, with data categorization and organization, and in some cases visualization. In other extreme applications, they do almost “human like” tasks like making sense of unstructured text. The fact still remains, however, that they make practitioners’ lives easier in all cases. A sensible data scientist running factor analysis these days wouldn’t think of proceeding without excel, or a calculator at the very least. These tools make his task far easier. A qual researcher, similarly, should consider the use of sentiment analysis tools, because, if you believe in their efficacy, they can make tasks far easier for the same reasons.

Ok, enough with my diatribe on why we should use DIY tools. We all get it right?

Well, I’m pleased to note that most people do. My experience at the North American Insight Innovation Exchange Conference in Atlanta this year was reassuring. When describing GlimpzIt, I could freely use terms like DIY, self service, or self guided with confidence, knowing that folks understood our offering and even more so, our value prop. Contrast that to just over a year ago at IIEX 2014 Amsterdam, when you could hear a scornful murmur in the crowd when Paul MacDonald from Google talked about how Google Consumer Surveys could help bring cost effective research to small businesses. Moreover, I didn’t sense the same sort of fear around losing business or even more personally, losing your job. That underlying sentiment seemed to permeate the Amsterdam conference center, and certainly still continues to at other conferences like CASRO.

It takes only a slightly deeper study of DIY tools to appreciate their value even more, and realize that they make all of our jobs more productive, not obsolete. During my exploration of the more common DIY tools in the insights space, I learned quite a bit about DIY strategies and their respective value. Let’s take a quick look:

Survey Tools:

SurveyMonkey, Qualtrics, Google Consumer Surveys – these are the giants and pioneers in the space and we all know what they do. The take away from these services is to make products valuable and applicable to researchers, but also accessible and usable by non-researchers. A marketer or product developer in the past, who might be completely unfamiliar with executing a survey, now has that potential, and that’s a good thing!

Marketplaces:

Zappistore, Qualtrics, CoolTools – they provide platforms for companies to submit their products for researchers to pull off the shelf and use independently. As an example, you might buy a “standard” NPS test where the question is pre-formulated, the survey is pre-programmed, and everything is executed for you automatically, all online. From these offerings, we’ve learned that DIY tools should strive more for turn-key solutions. We don’t need to stop at just delivering a function. There is merit to layering methods, analysis and presentation into our DIY offerings to make them more valuable and complete.

Other Somewhat DIY Solutions:

GutCheck – based on client needs, they make research methodology recommendations and are able to pull the appropriate “products” off the shelf to meet these needs. The learning from this strategy is that solutions that mix consulting and automation are just as effective, if not more so, than DIY alone.

DIY Panel:

Google Consumer Surveys, Branded Research, TAP Research, Cint, Federated – through the use of online web apps and APIs, anyone with some basic computer programming know how can recruit sample and achieve completes – no need for professional services anymore to confuse us with terms like LOI and incidence.

Passive Analytics:

Google Analytics, Kissmetrics – perhaps we don’t think of these tools as research, but their value is clearly aligned with the goals of many researchers, i.e. to understand consumer behavior and help with making more informed business decisions.

Our own tool, GlimpzIt, is used in scenarios ranging from ethnography and ideation to issue identification and political message testing. Cool stuff right? Sure, but we have a lot to learn from our predecessor DIY brethren. As a starting point, we adopted a similar vision – to democratize our brand of insight generation; make visual conversations accessible to anyone, regardless of job role, expertise, and budget.

I am happy to see the direction in which the industry has evolved just in a matter of a few short months. Its my firm belief that, as these tools get better and researchers get more comfortable using them, their use will become even more widespread. It’s time we sharpened our resolve to innovate, not dust off our resumés. With less time spent on the mechanics, the door is wide open for researchers to focus more on revealing deeper insights and deriving innovative methods to get to them.

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4 responses to “The Rise of Machines: Is DIY Going to Eliminate Your Job?

  1. Why would it eliminate the jobs of good market researchers? Surely all of these tools demand the same level of skills as has always been the case in the industry. Even the major consulting firms have discovered that market research capability does not correlate with holding a prestigious MBA. Bad design is most likely to be found from early users of these DIY solutions. I can hear many a good marketing manager (unless they are disappearing also?) starting to wonder at the quality of information they receive based on poor study design and biased, misleading questionnaires. This will eventually raise concerns about the capability of many DIY’ers who in truth just do not have the learning curve behind them that is required for professional market research design. All of these systems suffer from one dangerous assumption – that if you ask a question you will get a sensible answer. How untrue that is!

  2. I agree with the points Chris makes. I too attended IIeX (I served as a Track Chair). I agree with Sami’s observation that people were more “relaxed” about DIY. However, I think that is because people have come to recognize that for all intents and purposes, the DIY “revolution” is already upon us. That does not equate to thinking it is a great idea.

    Over time, people will undoubtedly begin to recognize when DIY is a good match for a research need, and when full service is a better match. Until that time, expect to see plenty of the missteps to which Chris refers.

  3. It’s worth remembering that there have always been significant differences in terms of technology adoption in the USA vs Europe. DIY has been around for years now and as you say simply part of the landscape now. I think that as time goes on the workforce in MR has become more tech aware and capable. This drives the acceptance of DIY tools. Remember that having a computer on your desk 30 years ago would not have been acceptable to upper management as that sort of stuff was “beneath them”. Now we all have laptops.

  4. This discussion to me does certainly highlight the “democratization” of research, as many brand managers seek alternatives on more limited budgets.

    But I more so see DIY vs. consultant as the same as insource vs. outsource, which has been going on for a long time in business in other divisions (HR, finance/procurement, marketing, etc.). Whether it is a trend, or a fad…good question I have yet to see answered credibly, but in other business divisions, it generally trends back and forth based upon a myriad of reasons (philosophies, regulation, how commoditized is it?).

    Our research with corporate researchers suggests a growing dissidence with agencies and their solutions…whether it is causative or correlative as to the increase in DIY remains to be seen. At L&E, we often discuss finding more clients that are interested in great research and less who are concerned about the party or ends justifying the means…our ability to validate that organizations that invest in great research see better ROI will be the differentiator, and where research experts will continue to see their value grow, and DIY (or poor researchers who get in because of the low bar of accreditation but takes time to expose) be a non issue.

    Corporate researchers seek solutions to improve their value within their organizations: there are a lot of ways for suppliers to accomplish this, DIY tools aren’t the problem (I would add however for all of the new technology companies in research…beware: barrier to entry is low, and the market relatively small).

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Sami Kaipa

Sami Kaipa

Co Founder / Chief Technology Officer / Chief Operating Officer, GlimpzIt

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