OPINION15 July 2015

Automatic for the people


Automation is one of the key trends for 2015: in a world where technology already sets the agenda, businesses must embrace automation or risk being outrun by their tech-savvy competitors.


Investment in technology and a pioneering approach to automation is revolutionising business models, and achieving a competitive advantage across all industries.

Market research is a sector prime for automation, and research agencies are finding new automated ways to connect with respondents and streamline the delivery of meaningful insight. From mobile surveys to online communities, automative technologies – when effectively combined with big data – are transforming the market research industry.

So why is automation so critical for business success across the board and for the market research industry in particular?

Efficiency and agility in a real-time world

Increasing efficiency and productivity are key business goals for all and automation is critical to improving throughput and eliminating make-work. Tighter budgetary constraints mean businesses are continually trying to do more with fewer resources – finding innovative ways to lighten the load and become more productive. Using technology to automate non-value add tasks reduces resource requirements and allows experts to focus their attention on areas where they can add value.

In market research, tools such as DIY surveys are already in use and are continually improving and evolving, enabling marketers to reclaim their working day by creating surveys in minutes that would previously have taken hours. By leveraging technology to automate routine tasks such as questionnaire design, accessing a sample and collecting data, marketers’ time can be freed up to focus on the value-add elements of analysis and insight delivery.

As well as increasing efficiency, automation also allows businesses to increase agility and responsiveness – essential for keeping pace with today’s real-time mentality. Turnaround times for research projects have been cut from days to just hours – requiring real-time data collection, which is made a possible through automative technology. The evolution of simple-to-use DIY technology means a survey created after lunch can now deliver results by the end of the day – if not sooner – allowing businesses to respond almost instantly to events as they unfold.

Improved quality and enriched insights

While the benefits of productivity, agility, and responsiveness are as applicable to the market research sector as any other industry, there are other advantages that are more specific to research, which are frequently misunderstood.

The quality of research projects is escalating as automation allows agencies to make use of previous work to systematise and optimise processes, rather than starting from scratch with every new project. Inputs and outputs can be standardised – using best-in-class thinking – and normative data can be gleaned for a wide range of categories, allowing deeper levels of insight than ever before. Automative technology enhances the research process by providing companies with actionable data gleaned from first-party consumer-generated insight, and standardisation allows marketers to become in-house data experts – mining and refining their own data. Not only can research projects be fielded quicker and cheaper – they can achieve a far greater level of insight.

Businesses aren’t the only beneficiaries to automation in research – consumers can benefit too. The democratisation of the research process means that consumers can now use relevant data insights to help decide what to buy once they have given their own views and opinions. They also benefit from technological developments, so many of the responses they may have previously provided can now be generated algorithmically.

Automation is a reality in every business sector – providing users with increased throughput. Automating non-value-add processes increases responsiveness, agility, efficiency, and productivity. Like all other industries, market research agencies must actively and strategically adopt automative technologies – enjoying the additional benefits of enhanced quality and deeper insight – to survive in today’s tech-driven world.

Frédéric-Charles Petit is CEO of Toluna