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Man vs. Machine: Is automated or traditional market research best for your business?

June 20th 2016

What are the benefits of automated market research and how does it really compare to traditional research methods?

In a bid to reduce costs, work smarter and keep pace with tech-savvy consumers, more companies are turning to automated research software to gauge consumer preferences. But what are the benefits of automated market research and how does it really compare to traditional research methods?

Sometimes in life, it’s easier to stick with what you know. When dining out, you could opt for an exotic-sounding dish you’ve never tried before but you don’t want to risk not liking it and being out of pocket.  The same applies with market research; you’ve heard of a cutting-edge, Millennial-enticing online research tool but is it worth taking a gamble on something new and being left feeling, well, dissatisfied?

Before taking the plunge, here are the main considerations in the automated versus traditional research debate.     

The pros and cons of automated market research

Research automation software puts you in the driving seat. Using cloud-based technology, it allows you to build and manage survey panels, customise online surveys and analyse results. Suppliers offer a wide range of automation research solutions, from product development packages – for testing a new product’s strengths, weaknesses and pricing, to communication research solutions – for discovering which communication touchpoints hit (or miss) the spot, allowing companies to enhance their customer experience. 

Advantages of automated market research:

  • Quick customer feedback – once built, a survey can be launched straight away followed by real-time results    
  • Global audience – online surveys can curate an audience of thousands in any location
  • Automated data collection – a streamline research process, reducing operational costs and increasing productivity
  • Cost-effective – fewer overheads creating a more affordable product.

Disadvantages of automated market research:

  • Low-quality data – participants selected on your behalf may not be suited to the research subject
  • Standardised surveys – an ‘off the shelf’ product is designed for many different users, so there is less opportunity to ask industry specific questions or personalise content
  • Basic insight – the absence of an interviewer prevents further probing or clarification
  • High drop-out rate – how many times have you dismissed a survey pop-up? There’s your answer! 

The pros and cons of traditional market research:

Traditional market research methods comprise several proven data collection techniques, including telephone interviews, one-to-one interviews, focus groups, email and postal surveys.

These methods have been used by companies the world over to garner customer and stakeholder feedback, helping to identify improvements and growth opportunities. 

Advantages of traditional market research:

  • Customised surveys - questionnaires are developed to deliver insights around a specific subject adopting your company’s tone of voice and branding
  • In-depth insights - research conducted in person allows for deeper questioning into beliefs and attitudes as well as sensitive subjects
  • Full project management – a dedicated team to work with you to draft, develop and analyse results, as well as highlight actionable insights
  • Flexibility – ‘live’ research allows a client and research team to work closely and update question types to engender the most informative response.

Disadvantages of traditional market research include:

  • Expense – more expertise and a greater head count means a bigger project spend   
  • Time intensive – traditional surveys take longer (anywhere from six weeks to six months) to deliver feedback, particularly if a specific sample of respondents is required
  • Human-influence – survey respondents can provide answers they think the interviewer wants to hear offering biased opinion. 

So what’s the answer?

The key factors to consider are what you want your research to achieve, project turnaround and expenditure. If you’ve created a digital advert and want to test your target audience’s reaction prior to launch or want to gain instant stats to inform an everyday operational decision, a quick-fire automated online survey is a cost-effective way to obtain rapid, real-time data.   

For advanced insights into customer, employee and stakeholder experiences and behaviour combined with clear, actionable insights, traditional human-based research is the way forward. 

Or to really hit the market research sweet-spot, why not use the best of both worlds?

At TTi Global, a full-service market research agency in Berkshire, we employ a powerful blend of traditional market research techniques, including, telephone interviews via a 14-station CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Unit) and automated survey tools with telephone follow up. As well as providing clients with a specific and detailed data set, our methodologies enable participants to express themselves using technologies they’re comfortable with.

To find out how TTi Global’s traditional and innovative business research solutions can help your business, contact our experts today on or email .