With the proliferation of machine-learning and artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted data collection, software-based market research companies are often viewed as an easy, default way to gather consumer insights. After all, what’s not to love about plug-and-play software that’s billed as a way to “automatically surface hidden insights buried in customer feedback”? Shouldn’t this be a better alternative to working with a local market research provider — especially when budgets are tight or there is a top-down mandate to get insights fast and change the product with those findings? However, as with most technology products today, there is an unfortunate assumption that AI or machine learning-based products will revolutionize a consumer-insights program. After all, isn’t more data better?
The problem with market research software
Before you request a demo or sign a contract with a market research software firm, such as Qualtrics or Survata, here is a brief breakdown of limitations that software-based market research has, when compared to working with a local market research provider – or custom market research firms.
- Market research software is not customized: No matter how “custom” a salesperson says their product is, it’s simply not. The software company is simply putting your questions, customer profiles, and goals into a program that then uses pre-existing programmatic processes to track your customers, send them surveys, and then make suggestions based on the responses. You’ll be working with an account manager (typically junior level) who is trained to ask specific questions about your business and deliver a templated approach. However, as you well know, your own customers are not simply “templates” that can be studied with an algorithm. Human behavior is far more complex than even the best AI can divine. Gathering complex customer insights requires a completely custom approach: A highly-trained market research professional who can spend time with your team, understand your business complexities — pouring through past research and insights — and then craft a completely tailored methodology and approach to studying your customers. There simply is no substitute for a tailored process like a local market research firm can provide – the best software in the world will never be this customized.
- Market research software is still quantitative in nature: Quantitative data is extremely important in market research, but it’s only one side of the equation – in fact, it’s quite limited at that. Quantitative research tells you how many and how much or where someone’s opinion falls on a scale, but it doesn’t get into the nuances of why people feel a certain way, or what other choices they would like to make, but were limited to because of UX design, as an example. Quantitative data doesn’t explain, define, or give you insights on how to design a better product in the future. It simply provides filled-in, pre-defined data points, with no room for uncovering new themes or insights. Even when software-based market research data is defined as having AI or machine-learning processes that give you customized quantitative data, be reassured that if it’s done at scale, it’s actually not customized and still limited by algorithmic data points. To sum up, unless you’re studying robots, you need more than a robot to understand actions and behaviors.
- Market research software is highly scalable and therefore highly profitable: There is a reason why it’s so easy to believe that software-based market research is the one and only way to get customer data insights: The companies behind this software are able to scale and therefore are highly, highly profitable. They can put huge monetary resources behind their marketing and sales efforts to convince people that their narrow, limited software will give you true customer insights, when in fact, they’ve just developed another algorithmic program that has deep limitations when it comes to understanding human behavior. (To highlight just how lucrative market research software is, the billionaire founder of Qualtrics, recently purchased a stake in the Utah Jazz Basketball team.) Software definitely has a place in market research analytics, but it offers a fraction of the insights that local, custom market research firms can provide (who, incidentally, aren’t scalable because it’s a highly-time consuming and tailored process to provide custom research insights).
The advantages of working with a local market research firm
In contrast to relying on your insights from market research software, working with a local market research firm a completely different process – and the outcome is vastly more useful.
Local market research firms are much smaller in nature. For example, at InterQ, we only have a team of 10. Why is this an advantage? It means that we take on fewer projects and are completely hands-on with our approach. Our whole team dedicates our time to getting to know your product and brand, going over past consumer insight research you’ve conducted, and then interviewing your team, in a multi-disciplinary approach so that we understand the perspectives from the product, sales, marketing, and technology teams. Armed with this data, we then set about crafting market research methodologies that will help us get true insights from your customers. Often this involves mixed methods, such as mobile ethnographies and in-depth interviews, or focus groups and surveys. We then custom recruit our sample, segmenting our audiences carefully into persona groups. Our qualitative researchers, who are trained in psychology and interviewing, then moderate the groups and interviews. Finally, our report writing team pours through hundreds of pages of transcripts to find the relevant themes and insights that will give your brand actionable insights to change your product design, marketing positioning, and even user experience design. During the whole process, your team is working with top-senior level professionals, and not entry-level researchers.
In a nutshell, it’s a far more comprehensive process than you’ll ever receive from market research software. Even the best AI or machine learning simply can’t replicate the time and experience that trained market research professionals bring to a custom research project.
The choice is pretty easy once you peek under the hood: Either buy a templated software program that over-promises customer insights, or choose instead to work with a local market research provider that can provide a 100% custom project and deliver rich insights, completely based on your unique customers and business issues.