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Automated Market Research: Set Me Free

Stephen Phillips comments on a new automation report from Ray Poynter and what it means for researchers.

In his new report “If it can be automated, it should be!” GreenBook contributor Ray Poynter says that for 2017, automation is the most important thing for researchers to get right. As automation continues to progress over the next 10, 20, even 100 years, it will reveal some companies coming out on top, while others fall behind.

GreenBook has covered automation a lot; it’s a growing trend in market research. With the hype surrounding the buzzword it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement.

Take it with a pinch of salt

Even as the CEO of a technology company leading the way in automating research, I realise it’s easy to get wrapped up in the idea that we may all lose our jobs to robots. But it’s important to note that we can only automate tasks where the benefits clearly triumph the bigger problems – such as costs, time and distractions. It’s only when we remember this that we can learn to let automation empower us as researchers.

Free yourself!

It’s certainly true that what you can automate you should; otherwise you’ll be left in the dust. As Ray makes clear, history is littered with the tales of those who refused to evolve. But it’s only necessary to automate the tasks which we don’t need (or want) to tackle: tedious tasks that don’t actually require us to use our experience, skills or even our brains to much degree. There are some things we all want automated, such as cluster analysis and sample control mechanics. There are some areas within market research that are already distinctively improved when automated or have already caused a notable change. For example online surveys have automated the interviewer, making them cheaper, faster, and scalable.

Do more of what you love

Right now, there’s a growing need for good research, well-designed and reliably delivered, used to drive change and help make good decisions. But as Ray Poynter points out in his report, the number of good market researchers is static: people are the scarcest resource of all. To continue to produce good insight, we need to make things scalable via automation and liberate researchers to do their thing.

As a great many studies show, most of what researchers spend their time on is administrative and clerical work rather than analytical work, but with automation researchers are free to use their intellect and creativity. Simply put, this means better research. Imagine allocating that earned free time towards designing a better study, analysing data, storytelling, communicating and activating insights. The fact is, many market researchers are already using automation to become more productive and more creative.

The consequence of liberating the researcher’s time, is that we are seeing the quality of research improve, along with the quantity. For the first time we can have all three elements – faster, cheaper and better.

Stay ahead of the game

Automation is just as important for individuals as it is for the company as a whole. As Ray says in his report, you want to be the individual that is doing well, and you want your clients and stakeholders to benefit from working with you.

‘If it can be automated, I’m not doing it.’ This should be your mantra, says Ray Poytner, because if it can be automated, it will be. So there’s no point developing skills and experience in something that is going to be done by a machine very soon. And, if you don’t automate something, you can guarantee your competition will. Therefore you need to make sure you are doing something that cannot be replicated. Become an expert in something which isn’t a threatened skill. If you’re a young researcher, try to avoid the tedious tasks and instead volunteer to be a part of the bigger research picture.

If all else fails, there’s an ultimate safe zone for researchers when it comes to automation – understanding the problem for the client. We are light years away from automating this. And never forget, the research automation we are now experiencing is liberating; not limiting.

Take a look at the report here.

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