Automation is a much-deliberated topic within the market research sphere, as well as in the wider business community. It has even been highlighted in this year’s GRIT report. Once upon a time, it was only an ‘emerging trend’, but it is now very much in full swing; companies of all shapes and sizes are enjoying the benefits of having more time, lower costs, and a lower headcount.

It’s not just faster and cheaper – it’s smarter. Automation fundamentally changes the way we do business.

The impact on technology-focused companies affects both clients and agencies alike. Having worked alongside leading clients and agencies in the field, these are Zappi’s key learnings:


The pressure is on. Clients want research findings faster and cheaper, in a world with much lower margins than other marketing services. Agencies need to manage client needs and increase their margins, which can be tough. Automation can solve the issue if agencies:

  • Adapt their stance. Rather than ‘doing market research’, they are creating an approach to research – then consulting their clients on how to improve their brand’s outcomes.
  • Try not to automate processes themselves (self-serving, we know). These companies are great researchers, thinkers, and consultants – but they tend not to be great technology companies.
  • Embrace the separation of consulting revenues from project revenues. The traditional approach of simply marking up fieldwork is no longer a sustainable business model. Agencies, now, need to accept that they should get paid for both their IP and for their thinking. These are different services – and they are not always combined – but, fortunately, both should yield high margins.
  • Look to cost advantages in order to tap into new markets. SME’s are using SurveyMonkey and clearly want research offered at a realistic price, without the burden of constant face-to-face meetings.


While they face different problems, clients face pressure too. They contend with tight budgets, yet require a greater impact on their businesses decision-making. They are now seeing agile processes adopted internally, from within tech-teams to boardrooms. Automation aligns with this new business philosophy, allowing for the accomplishment of both goals by:

  • Applying a ‘test and learn’ approach to development projects (such as advertisements, product development or brand planning).
  • Tackling several small projects at once, rather than big projects individually.
  • Testing early and testing often.
  • Worrying less about stimulus and thinking more about continuous learning. One-off testing is a thing of the past.

This means consumers are brought much closer to their development teams. Continuous communication is encouraged, instead of participation at a specific stage in the process.

This presents a wealth of opportunities for researchers on both sides – thanks to automation. It frees time for people to do more than just project management, but it does require genuine cultural and behavioural change.

For automated research to be used properly, there must be a process of change management, which of course requires planning, explaining, coaxing, and persuading. The benefits, however, are clear. If you need proof, take a moment to ponder success stories from agencies such as Millward Brown or Brainjuicer, and clients such as Gatorade and Nehemiah Manufacturing.

New technology can be disruptive, but with it comes new solutions to old problems. While the changes to market research have indeed been divisive amongst the insights community, it is exciting to consider that this is only the beginning. Insights will continue to evolve as a result of increased accessibility – so embrace the change!

Stephen Phillips will be speaking with a panel on the future of insights at IIeX Atlanta 2016 on Tuesday, June 15th. You can learn more about what ZappiStore will be up to at IIeX 2016 here.

Stephen Phillips

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Stephen Phillips

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