A few years have passed since we first started hearing of Artificial Intelligence in market research, and how this new technology was set to revolutionize the industry.

Since the beginning, HRW’s Innovation Team have been closely monitoring, testing, and evaluating developments of AI in market research. We use self-funded research and client partnerships to put new AI techniques to the test.

While there are processes that AI has so far been unable to replace, there are also many ways that AI can be put to good use for ourselves and our clients.

First, let’s briefly introduce the concept of Artificial intelligence systems as it’s being used in market research.

Artificial Intelligence is not meant to replicate human intelligence. Instead, AI is used for making decisions that are similar to those made by humans, but in ways that are faster than a human can make them.

In theory, Artificial Intelligence should go far beyond ‘automation’, which is also something that the MR industry has used across all aspects of operational execution for decades.

In practice, however, we’ve often seen services that are billed as AI, when they’re in fact much closer to an automated process.

When looking at true AI that’s used in research, there are two key areas that have been thoroughly explored thus far – ‘expert systems’ and ‘machine learning.’

Expert systems are based on a system of rules that are meant to simulate the decision-making of a person or organization with extensive experience in a particular area. The expert system’s capabilities can often be enhanced as time goes by with additions to the system’s set of rules.

On the flip side, however, expert systems are limited to the first-hand experience of those programming the system – the only decisions that can be made by the system are those that have already been encountered by its programmers.

The second AI system to explore is Machine learning. Unlike expert systems, machine learning is able to make decisions and perform actions in addition to what’s been specifically programmed into the system through the use of pattern recognition (e.g. Speech recognition used by Alexa, Google Assistant etc.). This enables the system to evolve over time, without any direct updates made by the programmers themselves.

Now, as mentioned, there are many ways that AI can be used to enhance our market research, from both an operational and an insights perspective. At HRW we design research that is custom fit to our client’s objectives, and as such we have relationships and flexibility across a wide range of techniques and suppliers who help support our execution of the research.

Generally speaking, we can categorize these AI offerings into two categories – AI inputs and AI outputs.



These are AI tools that we use for gathering data more efficiently and more effectively.

Such AI input options include:

  1. Conversational AI/Chat bots for added depth of interaction
  2. Visual Attention Software and predictive eye tracking
  3. Efficient and effective online survey tool for uncovering and prioritizing motivations and barriers
  4. Virtual platform supporting live groups with inbuilt theming and voting



The following tools are used after the qualitative or quantitative data has been collected. These offerings lead to new and exciting analytic capabilities which enhance the quality, depth, and speed of our research deliverables.

The following are just a few examples of AI output processes at HRW:

  1. Natural Language Processing for identifying themes and sentiment in unstructured data (in real time, or facilitating dynamic analysis)
  2. HRW partnership with fast AI-fuelled analysis platform – automatic transcription and classification of video content
  3. Bayesian Analysis to identify relationships and drivers between inputs to create a predictive model
  4. Adaptive Conjoint that tailors stimulus presented based on choices observed to build an optimal bundle
  5. AI Drivers to establish the link between brand or treatment attributes with physician or patient satisfaction to reflect different patterns of preference

HRW prioritizes innovation as a core value of our company, while Artificial Intelligence continues to present significant opportunities for us and our clients to improve overall quality of insights and delivery. As the field of AI continues to evolve, so does our use of the technology in the work that we do.



  1. Harnessing AI; MMR / NOVA (June 2021)
  2. https://searchenterpriseai.techtarget.com/definition/expert-system


By John Friberg

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