Editor’s Intro: If you attended IIeX this year, or read any of the summaries about it, then you know that agility and automation are key to the “better,” “faster,” “cheaper” future of market research. In this article, the authors from Confirmit and Delvinia contribute their perspective and experience to the benefits automation and agility bring.
It’s no secret that marketing professionals need insights faster than ever before. The days of weeks or months of project definition, planning, research, adjustment, more research, analysis, and final reporting are behind us. While many will bemoan the “good old days”, the time has come for Marketing Researchers to accept the new reality and identify the approaches that will allow them to meet client needs while staying as true as possible to the credibility and methodologies that have underpinned the industry for the last 100 years.
To keep up with the pace of change, speed of customer trends and customer control means that companies need to find ways to integrate more of a test-and-learn approach that allows them to bring the customer into the conversation more often in the development process. The good news is that automation is changing everything we know about research—delivering faster and cheaper research without forfeiting quality.
There have been enough high-profile failures of product launches in recent years to make it clear that there is still very much a place for “proper” research. With DIY research tools readily available the risk of flawed results is increased significantly. If someone is not trained in how to select the correct respondents or formulate questions they may well develop leading questions and obtain wrong or misleading information. This is where the ability to balance quality, methodology and speed represents a strong opportunity for Market Researchers, both within agencies and for corporate marketers and consumer insights professionals directly.
Automation to the Rescue
Automation is key to surviving – and thriving – in the fast-paced industry we find ourselves in, particularly in areas such as branding, product launches, and ad testing. Instead of a process lasting weeks, technology can do the bulk of the heavy lifting. It can effectively compress the myriad processes involved into one end-to-end approach, getting the development and execution time down to as little as 24 hours.
While this might sound disconcerting to researchers who fear robots will take their jobs (isn’t that everyone’s fear these days?!), automation is not about replacing people with AI. It’s about helping small teams do more with less by creating efficiencies in the research process. Fundamentally, it frees up researchers to build better stories around insights, rather than repeating relatively tedious, low-value tasks.
A great example is BMO Harris Bank, which was launching creative campaigns without incorporating customer feedback and – not surprisingly – finding that creative wasn’t resonating with the audience. Time pressures meant that weeks of reviewing options simply wasn’t possible, so the BMO Harris Bank team has worked with partners to automate the process.
Matt Marcus, Market Research Manager (US Market) at BMO Harris Bank explains, “A project we were we working on was falling apart before it even began. We were short on time and money and I was personally ducking out of marketing meetings to avoid conversations on the topic! When we started looking at the possibility of automating the process by working with a partner, I was incredibly relieved to find that by doing so, we could meet our research requirements, budget and our timing needs.”
As a result, the marketing team has been able to reduce the research timeline from weeks to around 48 hours – a huge advantage in the B2C world. More importantly, they have seen an average 15 percent improvement in creative concept ability to drive business key performance indicators.
One criticism of automation is often that it has limited applications. This is true to an extent – not every research project can be automated as there is more scope than many imagine. However, as long as the right level of flexibility is there successful automation is more than possible in a range of applications, including concept tests, product tests, brand, in-market, out of market and many more.
The Future of Research
Return on investment is vital at every stage of the marketing process now. Being able to run multiple automated processes that refine and improve programs dramatically, for the cost of a single – potentially ineffective – program, is a huge advantage.
The opportunity for researchers embracing automation is significant. It’s a common complaint for in-house research teams to feel like an isolated group within the wider organization. By being able to deliver faster, reliable customer insight, such teams will have the ability to take a seat at the decision-making table. More time is available to help guide storytelling approaches to customer feedback, and much more agility can be built into the marketing process.
The robots may not be coming quite yet, but without doubt, automation is the future.