Businesses are always trying to stay one step ahead of their customers, trying to develop products and services that will best suit their needs. Market research has always been one of the tools in the kit to help businesses plan for the future, testing reactions to new products or ideas before they’re widely released to the public.
But imagine if market research could do more than simply test potential new products or monitor current consumer sentiment. Imagine if there was a way to pull all the current consumer data available, filter it, and analyse it in a way that allowed brands to predict future sentiment. This kind of predictive insight would completely transform business strategy and product development.
The fact is, this idea might not be as futuristic as it sounds. Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have already transformed the way we collect and analyse data. It’s not such a stretch to imagine that as these technologies evolve, they will be able to sort current and past consumer insights in a way that allows us to predict future trends.
DATA IN REAL-TIME
Traditional market research that takes weeks or even months to complete is a thing of the past. In today’s digital world with round-the-clock social media consumption and a 24/7 news cycle, consumer insights can change in the blink of an eye, rendering long-term research obsolete before it’s even completed.
In today’s market, businesses need access to real-time insights that keep track of the ever-changing landscape, alerting them to shifting consumer sentiment as it happens. In response, research technologies have advanced so dramatically that research can now be turned around in a matter of days, with brands now able to see their survey responses filtering through in real time to get a sense of the findings before the research is even complete.
Real-time data has transformed the way businesses access consumer insights. But looking ahead, we need to ask ourselves if this is enough to remain competitive. How can businesses up the ante, and move from having their finger on the pulse to looking three steps ahead? The answer will, almost certainly, be found with AI.
When it comes to research, businesses often think the more data they can collect, the better. But it is possible to have too much of a good thing – and having too much data can make it impossible to analyse. The sheer volumes of data that can be collected – from millions of consumers with millions of data sources each – is phenomenal. But such vast quantities of data are about as useful as zero data if you’re unable to make sense of it all. And that’s where AI comes into play.
AI has completely turned data analysis on its head. It effortlessly breaks down big data into easily digestible information, analysing it in a way that delivers rich, detailed, and useful insights. AI won’t balk at millions of data points – it can sift through in mere seconds masses of data that humans would never be able to do manually. And when it comes to sentiment analysis and open-ended questions – some of the most time-consuming aspects of manual data analysis – AI can be particularly beneficial.
AI is such a useful tool that it’s quickly becoming industry standard for researchers. But AI’s real potential lies in how it might one day evolve to predict the future. When combined with machine-learning technology, AI gets more intelligent every day, learning as it goes. As it analyses millions of data points from millions of people across the globe, it starts to notice patterns. And it’s within those patterns that we’ll find the key to potentially unlocking future insights.
We already have the ability to predict future brand health. Drawing on existing brand equity and knowledge, Toluna has developed a uniquely holistic and agile approach to measuring brand health, which can predict future relevance and brand vitality. Based on the consumer attitudes and beliefs we measure today, we can predict a brand’s ability to have future relevance, and what brands need to do to fight competitive threats.
However, running a consumer survey which tells us what consumer attitudes might be one, two, or even five years from now isn’t yet possible. But never say never. AI and machine-learning technologies are advancing at an incredible rate. They’ve already revolutionised market research in such a way that what used to take weeks or months can now be done in a matter of days. The future of AI-driven insights is going to be very exciting indeed. And if AI can give businesses a crystal ball to help them predict future consumer trends, it will completely revolutionise business planning forever.
This article was first published on Q1 2022 edition of Asia Research Media