Beyond Google Scholar: How a Jr. consultant uses AI to hack research

From enhancing productivity to creating persona, explore the transformative potential of AI in market research through the eyes of Tim Nguyen, a Junior Research Consultant at Human8.

Cat Scott

10 July 2024

6 min read

 

No industry is beyond the reach of AI, and market research is no exception. Did you know that 47% of market researchers worldwide use AI regularly in their market research activities? Tim Nguyen, Junior Research Consultant at Human8, is at the forefront of exploring AI’s potential in market research and beyond – including turning his colleagues into AI-generated avatars.

We interviewed Tim to hear his take on the evolving role of AI and how it is shaping market research. Here are the main takeaways of our conversation.

 

Blog_Beyond Google Scholar: How a Jr. consultant uses AI to hack research

 

Tim’s journey from AI enthusiast to AI pioneer

Tim has been with Human8 for two years, and in that time, has set out on a mission to be a pioneer of AI within the business. His journey already began during his master’s studies where he became intrigued by the implications of automation on future workplaces.

 

Tim: “I did my master’s in economic development and globalization. As part of my courses, we explored economic growth, including a specific paper on the impact of automation on the future of workplaces that I found particularly interesting and relevant. That was my first exposure to the topic; we discussed the future, what would be automated, who would be affected, and who wouldn’t. Since then, much has changed, and many of those predictions have proven true.”

 

Following his studies, Tim joined a software company, collaborating closely with development and innovation teams to meet client needs. This experience familiarized him with tech terminology and agile methodologies. His economic and tech background, combined with a passion for data analysis, provided a solid foundation for his career in market research.

Since the ‘AI boom’ truly took off once Tim joined Human8, he started experimenting with generative AI tools to see how it could help him with his analysis tasks. Simultaneously, Human8 was developing its proprietary AI research assistant, providing Tim with a safe space to explore and refine his AI skills using client data. Through trial and error, he learned how to effectively utilize AI, discerning where its application made sense and where it did not.

Tim’s curiosity around the capabilities of AI also extends beyond his professional role – using AI to assist with translating Vietnamese, learn new languages, improve his chess skills, and analyze data for his fantasy NBA league. Despite initial limitations during the early stages of the AI revolution, Tim recognized its potential and actively contributed to its development.

 

Tim: “Initially, I used AI like a search engine, asking ‘the top 10 NBA players’, but now its capabilities have expanded significantly. I can translate Vietnamese, which Google Translate struggles with as it is context driven. I’m currently learning Dutch by asking the system for the 100 most common words I need to know. And with voice recognition advancements, its utility has only improved. Every week, I discover new ways to leverage its capabilities.”

 

The role of AI in market research

Tim envisions multiple roles for AI in market research. Firstly, seeing it as a powerful assistant that can enhance efficiency and productivity. By alleviating the heavy lifting of manual processes (like reading through hundreds to thousands of open-ended answers, moderating and probing), AI allows researchers more time to focus on the applied aspects of a project, such as drawing conclusions and formulating concrete action points from the insights gained.

 

Tim: “I recall a quote from an author and video game enthusiast on X who said she wanted AI to handle her laundry and dishes, but not her art and writing. Essentially, you want AI to take care of the routine tasks, not the fun tasks. In market research, I needed to find that balance: what routine tasks could the technology take over so that I could focus on fun tasks like conclusion writing.”

 

Second, Tim believes in using AI to supercharge research by blending algorithmic and human intelligence according to their strengths. For example, in online consumer communities or focus groups, a human moderator can lead the discussion while an AI chatbot poses follow-up questions, diving deeper into initial insights. This scalable solution can transcend language barriers, making data collection across markets more efficient.

A third key area to focus on is ideation, where AI can generate idea-based visualizations. Where research participants struggle to articulate their thoughts, AI can help express their ideas more clearly. However, there is also the potential for bias in AI models, where it feeds off stereotypes based on aspects like income, gender or ethnicity, and only human intervention can steer it in the right direction.

One standout project where AI played a pivotal role was the work Tim and the Human8 team did for Beyond Meat. Here, AI was used to create detailed personas informed by an initial U&A survey and refined with insights from Beyond Meat’s research archives.​ During an immersive workshop, internal stakeholders interacted with an AI-powered chatbot that brought the persona to life.

 

Tim: “We ran a workshop for Beyond Meat using previous findings to distinguish consumer types. We created specific personas with data on income levels, marital status, children, age, etc., and used AI to fill in gaps, like what car they drive. We had an AI chatbot for each persona, allowing clients or participants to interact and gain rich consumer insights. It felt like involving AI truly supercharged the research and it was one of the most fun projects I’ve worked on.”

 

Tim recognizes AI’s value in enhancing efficiency, gaining deeper insight and creating new possibilities for understanding consumers. However, he also feels it is important to balance AI capabilities with human thinking. For example, in conversation-based research, a live moderator is essential to apply critical thinking and extract meaningful insights from the AI-generated data and not simply taking it at face value.

 

Experiment to stay ahead

Tim sees AI as a game-changer for the research industry. With his curious and proactive mindset, he’s always on the lookout for new developments, ready to harness technology to its fullest potential. He encourages everyone to experiment with AI, both personally and professionally. Embracing AI and gaining hands-on experience can not only help you stay ahead but reveal valuable applications. Here is his advice to fellow researchers:

 

Tim: “Definitely try it out. Most capabilities are freely available. Gain experience and you might find something applicable to your job. Follow market developments – it’s a super competitive industry. Being prepared gives you a huge competitive advantage.”

 

In summary, while it’s crucial to balance AI capabilities with human thinking to address biases, AI’s evolving nature is exciting and provides a multitude of opportunities. Complementing AI capabilities with the richness of human thinking maximizes its value, redefining consumer insights. Embracing AI paves the way for thoughtful and effective integration, reshaping market research to deliver truly impactful insight.

 

Want to know more on how to use AI to its fullest potential? Check out this blog on moving from queries to conversations.

 

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