There has been no escaping the conversation about the role of AI in consumer insights. Supercharged by ChatGPT, it feels like all of us as insight professionals are re-imagining what the industry will look like and questioning where we fit in.

At Shapiro+Raj, we believe in Techmanity™. Simply put, this is the idea that technology alone is insufficient to discover and deliver the most impactful insights. Instead, we believe the most powerful insights require a perfect blend of technology AND humanity. Technology allows us to unearth insights that are deeper (e.g., voice emotional analysis), smarter (e.g., AI-powered language analysis) and faster (e.g., digital platforms, quali-quant tools). Yet critically, we use these tools alongside social and behavioral science which allow us to expose deep human truths. We also interpret all data by applying our human empathy and intuition to achieve true insight.

This perspective is informed by our experience as well as stepping back and reflecting on how we’ve gotten here. Considering not just the question of what tech can do, but what roles technology and humans can play in consumer insights.

The last few years have certainly felt like a ResTech tsunami – with new platforms, new tools, and new promises every day. And while the pace and nature (generative AI most notably) has changed, the way that technology has changed the industry is a conversation we’ve been having for years. We’ve noted four primary inflection points:

Horizon 1: Novel data collection

The technology of online surveys, virtual interviews and more automated back-end processes were changing the way data was collected. Do you remember when we all boasted about our ‘mobile-optimized’ surveys?

With faster, less cumbersome ways to collect data the industry had to provide more than data. It became incumbent upon insight professionals to ‘tell the story’ of that data through insightful, impactful reporting of each project.

Horizon 2: Novel data types

Then technology brought us not just better ways of collecting traditional data types, but also led to new types of data. In some cases, this was secondary or client owned data sources, in others it was novel ways of capturing data within primary research such as facial coding, eye-tracking or other biometrics.

While interesting, these new forms of data often resulted in data deluge – lots of information, very little insight. Now insight professionals didn’t have to just ‘tell the story’ but first find and then synthesize a cohesive narrative across data streams. Finding the themes, connections, and contradictions as only a human could. For example, biometrics could point to the moment in the campaign that (literally and figuratively) raised eyebrows but only the human could decode what was really going on and why.

Horizon 3: Data Synthesis

Perhaps as a direct response to the ‘data deluge’ above, the next wave of tech focused on taking large amounts of data to find themes and patterns. This often leaned into NLP and took the form of key theme summarization, sentiment analysis, and various other text analytics.

With this shift, humans could spend less time identifying the themes and more time making sense of it all. And while the industry had been talking about the ‘so what’s’ for years, it was now more critical than ever. As insight professionals, we shifted from simply championing the voice of the customer to truly being strategic marketing partners driving brand decision making.

Horizon 4: Sense-making

So here we are, on the verge of the next major shift. As the promise of generative AI continues to come to life, it’s clear that technology may be able to assist in much of what we as humans have done in the past – including the sense-making to some degree.

In this future, we believe, the role of humans will again shift. While humans will remain key players in synthesis, storytelling, and sense-making, the bar will again rise. It will be more crucial than ever that humans are providing contextualization and inspiration. True insight comes from context – both the business / competitive context as well as the human context. A deep understanding of humans via social and behavioral science sets the stage, and our own human empathy and intuition bring it home.

Further, inspiration is critical. We must go further than the insight and strategy alone – we must light a fire in those who must act on it. The way we deliver, share, and speak about the insights must create a passion in a way only humans can.

At Shapiro+Raj, we are beyond excited for this future. As we continuously adopt innovative technologies that empower our research to be better, we never forgot our role as humans to crystallize the opportunity each insight reveals and inspire teams to action.

Discovering and delivering breakthrough insights requires a perfect blend of technology empowerment + human empathy, intuition, and curiosity. No one does this better than Shapiro+Raj. Connect with us at [email protected].