As businesses continue to take advantage of new and emerging technology, some of the fundamentals of market research are beginning to change. However, the basic goals remain the same: businesses want to collect as much information as they can about their respective markets and use that information to inform their decisions. Given ongoing innovation though, the future of these efforts is likely to be shaped by some new capabilities and technologies.
In writing about automation in market research a few months ago, we remarked on increased agility as a potential benefit. We noted that business leaders of big brands could use automation to “think and react with the agility of startups”– meaning essentially that they could more accurately track the large markets in which they operate. In the past, without automated means of gathering information and formulating insights, larger companies were somewhat limited by manpower, hours of operation, and the sheer amount of information available. By taking an automated approach to market analysis, however (including by way of some of the methods we’ll discuss below), even a large business can put together a more comprehensive picture of the market at hand.
When we look at specific technologies that will help to drive innovation in market research, voice assistants and virtual reality emerge as intriguing factors. One five-year forecast for market research identified voice assistants and VR specifically because they are independently expected to surge in popularity. That is to say, more people will be buying and using voice assistant accessories and VR equipment in the next five years. This is significant because, as the forecast put it, we speak an average of 125 words per minute, whereas we only type about 35. This essentially means more information being shared at a quicker rate, which opens the door to massive potential for market researchers to gain insights. Some of this can be done via direct outreach in these mediums, and some can be done through analysis of any publicly available activity from voice assistant and VR use.
Here we don’t have any one piece of technology like a voice assistant or VR headset that we can point to for clear potential. Rather, it’s the fundamental tech capability that’s improving. Small, wirelessly connected sensors depend on fairly advanced and highly specific printed circuit board designs to be able to work, and right now it’s becoming easier for engineers to work out those designs. A post on the best PCB antenna design software outlines that applications from personal communication, to advanced driver assistance, to medical technology all require smaller devices with compact but capable antennae for wireless functionality. With such antennae not being easier to design though, we’re seeing an explosion in wireless and Bluetooth sensors– in cars, in homes, in retail environments, and so on. Naturally, they serve different purposes, but in many cases they exist in part to interact with consumer devices and gather data. This amounts to a vast network of potential market research tools, with more on the way as more capable PCBs and better sensors continue to be developed.
Last, and perhaps most important of all, further innovation in analytical tools is likely to give market researchers an unprecedented ability to make sense of the data, as well as some new technologies that might lead to more fruitful and widespread research efforts. But once data is gathered, businesses also need to be able to sift through it all and turn it into actionable information. A feature on examining automaton in data science spoke to how this can work heading into the near future. It essentially pointed to automation (specifically AI and machine learning) as being able to help companies to “analyze vast amounts of data, hypothesize, and create thousands… of data patterns.” This is a fairly broad explanation, and different AI and machine-learning tools can accomplish different things. By and large though, we should expect automated data analysis to be part of the innovation we continue to see in market research.
Some of this can seem somewhat daunting, as is often the case when new technologies come into play. All in all though, these changes should lead to significant new capabilities in market research, and will ultimately help businesses to understand their markets better than ever before.