The promise of artificial intelligence (AI) is its ability to be used as a tool to allow us to do things better, faster and (in some cases) cheaper than other existing methods. This is a major reason why AI has made inroads in many industries, including marketing and advertising.
One of the ways that AI helps marketers is in its ability to mine data and find insights in data that has already been collected. What started from simpler server logs — then evolved into more complex analytics software, then into big data-driven business intelligence platforms — grows increasingly complex and increasingly broad in its ability to gather, process and analyze sets of data.
What does this mean for the average marketer? Ten to 15 years ago, Google Analytics alone might have felt state of the art, and a few years ago, having your unified data sources presented in compelling reports through Tableau was amazing. Today, however, it makes more and more sense to use sophisticated data-gathering tools earlier in the process. This means in the research phase.
AI is growing so important in the research phase that large companies are making huge investments in it. For instance, Google recently renamed its research division to Google AI. That’s a pretty big bet on artificial intelligence.
Let’s explore this a bit further, with the caveat that I, at least, believe that completely replacing humans with AI to do research is not a good idea, nor will it ever be in the conceivable future. What I will say is that there are several ways that AI can augment the research process and certain parts where it can do a better job than a person.
AI Can Increase Efficiency
The first way that AI can do a better job at research than a human is a very practical one: saving time. While it takes a human to read a research report in order to truly understand it, does it require a human to write all of the words?
In a MarTech article, Fred Barber of response:now, claimed that nearly 80% of the effort spent doing market research is used in compiling and writing the research reports. Acknowledging this, finding ways to automate portions of the compilation and “writing” of reports can make a huge difference in time spent. And what better way to spend that time than in something humans excel at (over computers) — the analysis of the data and improvisation and creativity that people are simply best-suited for.
AI Reduces Bias
Second, there is the issue of bias. Two kinds of bias, actually. No matter how intentional, there is an element of bias in all of us.
The first kind of bias is in the researcher, the focus group facilitator or, in general, the person conducting the research. Bias can result from slight facial movements or emphasis on and usage of certain words or phrases instead of others and even attention paid to certain details over others. All of this adds up to conscious or subconscious bias being present, even in a small capacity.
The second kind of bias is in the person being researched. Our memories have a funny way of presenting some things clearer than others when we recall them. But a piece of software designed to gather data about user behavior and actions remembers all points equally.
This means that by utilizing artificial intelligence tools, researchers can present a more accurate representation of what people are really thinking and doing. This is because the methods used to do the research are based on real human interactions (such as collecting eye movement, usage of a mobile app or their path through a retail environment) as opposed to a research participants’ ability to recall what they said, did or thought.
AI Can Help Recruit
You can use artificial intelligence even earlier in the process. Instead of poring over potential research participants’ data to find the best candidates, why not let AI crunch those numbers for you and at least provide a better shortlist from which you can do final reviews?
This is yet another area where AI tools can help, particularly when they have the ability to learn and grow over time.
At my agency, Yes&, we’ve embraced the idea that software can help us get to critical points in the research process, quicker and better. This efficiency allows us to do a better job for our clients because we can focus time and energy on the parts of the process that humans do better.
While you may not utilize artificial intelligence at every step in your research process, you can start using it to improve results, reduce time spent and improve overall efficiency, one step at a time.