On Tuesday 12th March, I attended my first MRS conference in London. As someone who started her career in market research a couple of years before covid started, I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to go to these kinds of events before, so it was all new and very exciting!

The theme of the day was the influence of Generative Artificial Intelligence (Gen AI) in market research, which was interesting given the number of posts and articles we constantly see about this topic – most of them slightly worrying… Reassuringly, the consensus at the conference was that there are a lot of benefits to be gained from its different uses, but there are also lots of discussions around how human insight remains vital for our clients.

  • Gen AI can be used at different stages of the project lifecycle, and it can serve various functions, from knowledge scouting to creative assistance.
  • A great example shared during the conference was a project where the client needed to generate new store concepts to test. With the same level of information, Gen AI was able to invent four concepts that “humans” hadn’t thought of. They were then tested alongside the “human-generated” concepts, and actually performed really well!
  • My biggest takeout from the event is that Gen AI should be seen as a “super-efficient colleague” that can help with repetitive and less exciting tasks. Using it in this way enables us, market researchers, to concentrate on other elements of projects where we can add most value, for example by having more time to understand our clients’ needs.

Despite the positives, lots of challenges remain around Gen AI, in particular when it comes to data ownership and copyright issues, that will demand robust regulatory frameworks. The quality of prompts also plays a crucial role in the results provided. I guess what my year 4 teacher told me is true: stupid questions get stupid answers (he was not the most patient person…).

This was summarised succinctly though the final conference discussion with Raphael Rowe, a TV presenter, broadcaster and investigative journalist who spent 12 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. As someone who went through a very difficult time, his story was a timely reminder of the power of human experience and storytelling, something that (as of yet?) Gen AI can’t replicate, and we as researchers should continue to celebrate.