Market Research & AI: Top 5 Tips

Mustard’s Director, Anthony Shephard-Williams shares his thoughts on how best to deal with change as a result of the emergence of AI tools in the market research industry. 

Over the last couple of years our industry, like so many others, is evolving at a rate I don’t think many of us has ever seen. A lot of this change has been driven by the emergence of AI (for those that need a little more clarity on what AI is, the Collins Dictionary defines AI as a type of computer technology which is concerned with making machines work in an intelligent way, similar to the way that the human mind works).

I’ve been working in market research now for approaching 20 years and back when I started out on GfK’s graduate training scheme, things were very different: online surveys, although gaining popularity were not the dominant method, social media was so new that it wasn’t really on the radar and I used to spend days and days manually coding huge open ended comments and printing out a 1000 page tabulation set from a continuous tracker I worked on to check (jeez this really makes me feel old!).

Fast forward to 2023 and it’s a completely different world. To ensure we stay abreast of the change to our industry and ways of working, Mustard has set up what we call an ‘AI supergroup’. There’s four of us (from various levels within the team) that get together on a monthly basis to discuss all things AI.

We wanted to share some tips on how to deal with (and manage) the change that comes with AI. Whilst these are pertinent to the market research industry, I think these are appropriate and transferable to all industries.

  • Be accepting that our industry is changing – we can understand that there may be concerns about how AI may impact our industry and roles within it, but AI is here to stay. If you don’t get onboard with it, there’s a chance you may not be able to keep up with your competitors.
  • Have a dedicated team that keep on top of emerging AI trends and tools – I’m sure many of you reading this will be contacted on at least a weekly basis with news of the latest AI tool that claims to be the ‘best new tool’ out there or one that is going to ‘completely revolutionise the way you work’, there’s so much noise out there about AI, it can be scary and difficult to see the wood through the trees. With our AI supergroup, we take a sensible and logical approach; we discuss any new tools or solutions and see if any are of interest. We then explore them further, request a demo and then ideally follow this up with a trial (it’s great to do a trial on a recently completed project, so that you can see how the AI compares to humans, before trialling it further on some live projects) then decide whether to ‘progress’ or ‘dismiss’ the notion of adding this to your tool box.
  • Decide on some key success metrics when making decisions on which AI tools to invest in – for us there are two simple metrics we assess any new AI tools by. Does the tool make the insights better for our client and does the tool improve our project efficiencies? Of course, these measures aren’t going to be critical for everyone and each agency should decide what works best for them based on their own reasons for exploring new AI tools.  
  • Treat AI with caution – It is not full proof and AI can get things wrong. AI can struggle with context and it can sometimes have a tendency to hallucinate and manufacture insights. We’ll never invest in a new tool until we understand how it works fully and what its limitation are. We’ve designed AI policies that we closely follow and we share best practice with the wider team about how we work with AI tools to get the most of them. This in turn, ensures we continue to deliver the highest quality and more importantly, accurate and true insights for our clients.
  • Never rest on your laurels – Heraclitus, the well-known Greek Philosopher, sums my thoughts up on change so accurately, it’s constant and never ending! We can’t implement one or two new AI tools into our business and assume that’s it. In the space of the last year alone, the tools and features of what we are using already are improving and there are new emerging tools to try out.

From this blog I’m sure you can see that Mustard is ‘all in’. We aren’t waiting, instead, we are actively testing and trialling what AI can do for our business, for our research team’s effectiveness, and to meet our clients’ research aims

Earlier in 2023 we produced a thought leadership piece ‘Risks, Rewards and the Human Factor – An Experiment in Generative AI’ which detailed our experiment an experiment we conducted on the use of Generative AI in an online qualitative insight community. To receive a copy of this, email

Written by Anthony Shepard-Williams
Posted on 15th Dec, 2023