Editor’s note: Charles Richards is business analyst and writer, at software development firm TatvaSoft UK, London. 

I have seen revolutionary progress in fields across the globe, especially in the area of social science. Technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence are the next horizon to explore. These machines have started making a crucial impact on the market research industry. But no matter how startling the effect seems to be at times, no machine can ever have the intelligence of a human being. 

It’s important to know what AI is and what it is not. Automation is widely being used throughout the insights industry to speed up a number of processes from recruitment to data collection and analysis. It is basically a simple set of rules that a machine follows to perform a task without human assistance. But the machine cannot make decisions or learn something new each time the process runs. 

According to Gartner, it is predicted that around 85 percent of customer interaction in the retail industry will be managed by artificial intelligence. Let’s look at a three ways artificial intelligence is being used today.

1.  Processing open-ended data

The process of applying statistical analysis techniques to huge volumes of written data with the aim to distill quantitative results has been dubbed big qual. To know more about it, check out the Google Cloud Natural Language API’s short demo. The program recognizes AI as the most salient entity in the paragraph. It has the capability to understand the category of text, syntactic structure and offer insights on sentiment. 

2. Machines making decisions

With relevant information, a machine can make decisions like never before. An example of this can be found in the application of natural language processing with Watson, a question-answering computer system developed in IBM’s DeepQA project. With the goal of pinpointing traits Kia was looking for (i.e., openness to change, artistic interest and striving for achievement), Watson parsed the vocabulary of social media influencers. Watson made decisions that would be difficult for a human to make, demonstrating the possibility that AI may one day understand us better than we do.

3. Proactive community management 

Another interesting way in which artificial intelligence is being used is in community management. Behavioral predictions – driven by AI – can result in reducing the risk of disengagement. There was a time when AI was compared against disengaged members, and today it is able to identify which members are at risk of becoming disengaged. This allows community managers to provide additional support and encouragement to these individuals, reducing that risk. 

Impacting market research

Increasing efficiency is one of the most exciting ways AI can affect the research industry. AI technology can go through a research report more quickly than humans. This allows researchers to spend time focusing on something we excel at – creating actionable insight. Several experts have observed that around 80 percent of the effort spent doing market research is in compiling and writing the research reports. Here automation plays a significant role. 

Another emerging concern in the market research industry is bias. No matter how genuine we consider ourselves, everyone is biased. While software is not completely free from bias, it has a method of gathering data about user behavior and actions while remembering all points equally. AI tools can be considered to give a more accurate presentation of what people are really thinking and doing. 

In addition, with the help of AI, quality recruitment can be conducted quickly. AI technology can crunch the numbers for you – finding the best candidates based on research participant data – or it can provide a better shortlist for you to develop on. The only thing left for you to do is go through the final reviews. In addition, AI tools have the ability to learn and grow over time. By beginning to incorporate AI in each stage of the research process you can improve results, reduce time spent and improve overall efficiency. 

Wild West 

Machine learning, AI and automation technology are becoming the new Wild West across the globe. In 2019, chances are the market research industry will have some growing pains including educating market researchers, hiring more data scientists and taking strides to decrease the gap between the technologies available and the ability to use them to further market research.