Innovations in Market Research: AI, ethnography and online tools

by Susan Mullin

We recently had a fascinating conversation with Joy Levin, a market research expert and consultant with over 30 years of experience in the field. Joy offered valuable insights about how artificial intelligence (AI) and other recent innovations are revolutionizing market research, along with important developments in key areas like ethnography in online tools. Read on to hear Joy’s take on the opportunities and challenges these innovations bring to the market research field. 

Market Research

How are people using AI in market research?

Joy: So, like any other marketing discipline, AI definitely has a place in market research.

I think there are some, opportunities and challenges for AI. In terms of opportunities, one great area is in qualitative research, where we’re used to getting a lot of long open-ended responses that are really valuable, but it takes so much time to go through them to pull out some of the themes.

What AI can do is it can pull out those themes so we get the general idea, but there is still this need for human touch to those responses. So if we can use AI to start to pull out some of the themes, but still rely on that human touch to look at exactly what the context is, that’s how currently I think AI can add in one way to research.

There are also some challenges. One of the biggest challenges is when you’re doing a survey, a lot of respondents can just want the incentive and can go and use like chat GPT to develop a response and put it into a survey. You need a critical eye to look at each respondent’s answer and determine, is this sounding like a chat GPT or AI robot, or is this sounding like a true human response?

I think it’s incumbent upon me as a researcher and all researchers for our clients to be able to tease out the AI-generated responses from the real responses because these decisions that are being made from research are very important decisions and so we want to make sure the decisions are based in reality and on human input. 

What are some other types of innovations that you’re seeing right now that you think are really contributing to market research? 

An exciting innovation has been the use of ethnography.

So ethnography is where you follow somebody in their natural environment to get feedback. What we are now able to do because of technology is use cell phones to be able to find out from people what it is they’re doing either on a website, in a store, in their home, or interacting with products. It used to be that a researcher would have to follow them on a shopping trip in their home, and that makes it kind of artificial. It inhibits the respondent and giving some honest answers. But now, since we can use cell phones to have them record their responses in their natural environment, we’re able to take away that kind of researcher looking over the shoulder and get more authentic responses. And that makes things like product development or brand research a lot more informative and reliable because you’re getting the respondents’ point of view without being influenced by that researcher. 

What are some other online tools that are making an impact in your line of work?

There are some tools out there that have made research very accessible to people who can’t use a consultant for either budgeting reasons, or they don’t have the time.

For example, is one tool, is another. You can use these and they’re search engines in a way, but they’re more refined for research. So one of these tools, you’ll go out and start talking about a topic and it’ll generate all kinds of questions that people are asking about that topic.

Then you can use that to develop content for blogs or websites. You can get an idea of the kinds of questions that people are asking around a topic so you can start to think about your messaging. So those are some offerings out there that are really either very low priced or free that you can tap into and find out more about what people are talking about now to inform your messaging or your content.

What about AI tools like Chat GPT? What uses does it have in research?

Chat GPT and generative AI can be helpful in research as a starting point.

So you can go and say, “Give me 10 questions people might ask” about a certain topic. That’s great, but it’s not tailored often to exactly what you want.  It’s not always accurate in terms of the answers you’d get clearly. 

So it’s a great starting point to think about certain types of questions, but I do think there is a need to go beyond that to get the value out of the research that you’re going to be conducting.


There are exciting innovations that the market research field, AI tools are streamlining qualitative research, and innovative tools like ethnography via cell phones are simplifying formerly cumbersome processes. Online resources are empowering researchers and giving them easier access to a wealth of information. While AI tools like Chat GPT are useful for generating questions, the human touch remains crucial for extracting valuable insights in the ever-evolving field of market research.

Learn more about Joy’s market research company Allium Research and Analytics here.

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