Generative AI, synthetic panels and research budgets

Editor’s note: Oscar Carlsson is the chief innovation officer of Cint.

The marketing research industry experienced its fair share of disruption and technological advancements in 2023, thanks in part to a boom in AI adoption and machine learning. It has also been a year of challenges; economic hardships forced many businesses to get creative when thinking through their approach to data.

While 2024 will no doubt bring its own set of challenges for businesses, if one thing is crystal clear, it’s this: Businesses will need to drive the best outcomes, and the best way to do that is through smart marketing research. Let’s explore a few ways the marketing research industry, as a collective, may look to innovate to meet evolving business demands in the new year.

Generative AI will take the marketing research industry by storm

This year, AI made its way into every industry and the message is clear; those who do not harness its technology are destined to be left behind. Within the marketing research industry, we saw brands begin to segment audiences, analyze data and trend forecast using AI.

2024 will be the year of generative AI applications. The current research process is tedious and time consuming. We will see more opportunities for digital research platforms to close the gap between process and outcomes. Dedicating less time to the administrative components of the process will afford researchers the freedom and flexibility to focus on higher-level problem solves. Have they spent enough time with the client to understand the problem and the true objectives of the research project at hand? Only once they’ve effectively answered those questions will they be able to work with their clients to design the best surveys – surveys that lead to the right insights for better outcomes.

Synthetic panels will find their place

We have begun to hear more about synthetic paneling and their place within the marketing research industry. Industry leaders are feeling apprehensive toward the idea of using AI-generated respondents mimicking their target audiences. In 2024, I see the use of this technology finding its place working as a complementary tool to mine and understand existing data. Synthetic paneling will complement real human responses to validate and ask the right questions, while avoiding repeating what we already know. This, in turn, will provide us all with better research.  

While nothing can replicate the human experience, synthetic paneling can be complementary to traditional surveying. Synthetic paneling can pull data and find audience trends. In the preliminary stages of desk research, brands and researchers can pull a synthetic panel and better prepare to ask the right questions when they design their market research studies. As we move forward with synthetic paneling, we must understand that there will still be a need for research and researchers to verify the results to stand behind the data.

Research budgets will grow, despite macroeconomic pressures

In 2023, many businesses experienced budget limitations as a response to the inflating economy. With macroeconomic factors still putting a damp blanket on the industry, in 2024 we hope to see research budgets and market spend grow as interest rates drop. This will in turn open opportunities for the industry to implement newer and experimental technologies into their practices. Bigger budgets will drive efficiency as more companies turn to generative AI to assist with mundane tasks.

All in all? The future is bright and poised for further disruption. Those that lean into innovative practices and the implementation of burgeoning technologies will be best set up for success in the year ahead, and beyond.