Editor’s note: Stephen Phillips is CEO of marketing research firm ZappiStore, London.

As claimed in a new report (registration required to view) I co-authored with Ray Poynter, this is the year of automation. It’s the most important thing for marketing researchers to get right in 2017. This year will reveal some MR companies coming out on top with growing success, while many others will fall behind. The report’s argument is that it’s important to embrace automation, while carefully considering what can and can’t be automated, because only the companies which are successful in embracing automation will prosper.

Corporate researchers, you must be wary of the good, the bad and the ugly among the four benefits of automation – cheaper, faster, scalable, quality – before you can take automation by the horns.

1. Cheaper research for industry growth.

As budgets are squeezed, it’s essential to find ways to do the same (or more) for less. Automation reduces costs, which can cause prices to fall and ultimately the market to grow. Looking at past examples we can see how the automobile industry grew with automation, supporting the birth of hundreds of millions of cars and the hiring of more employees. As clients, cheaper research has short-term benefits but looking at the long-term picture, cheaper is only an advantage of automation if it leads to growth of the marketing research industry.

2. Faster insights for same-day business decisions. 

Many corporate insight teams have been decimated. One person is expected to do the job of three. This is why corporate researchers are embracing automation; it delivers insights faster than ever. However, this is only a benefit if it speeds up the process of business. As corporate researchers, speed can move you into the decision-making process much faster. But automating for speed must only be used where faster actually helps, where research becomes a same...