Beyond the transactional: Harnessing AI to cultivate whole-hearted engagement in consumer research

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Dr Ansie Collier

04 Apr, 2024 | 2 minutes

I once heard a business leader say, “Data is just people in disguise” – which was really to say that data doesn’t always speak to what is essential to know. When we focus first and foremost on the data – especially in the age of big data – it is easy to shift the emphasis to managing the data rather than connecting with the people hidden in the numbers.

But we know, it is the people who matter.

No one wants to think of themselves as your consumer, your user, or your respondent. They are not the sum of their clicks, likes, or shares. They are not a segment. They are not their demographics. They are not the coffee brand they are enjoying now, or the chocolate brand they’ll snack on later. They are people, just like you and me. Whole-hearted in every way.

So why does research, aimed at understanding people, often feel so transactional? A somewhat impersonal exchange, with rigid boundaries, responses merely given and taken.

Where is the heart in that?

At MMR, we believe in the power of chatbots to go beyond mechanical data collection by fostering meaningful conversations with real individuals.

Through chatbots, we activate the 5 pillars of whole-hearted engagement:

  • Respect: Through open, exploratory conversations, chatbots create a space for individuals to share their stories, as we meet them where they are, on their terms, tangibly demonstrating our appreciation for their stories and experiences.
  • Curiosity: Our chatbots’ responsive and context-relevant probing embodies curiosity in the moment, enabling the kind of discovery that supports a more holistic understanding of each individual.
  • Creativity: By fusing creativity into conversational design, we rekindle the joy and spontaneity of engagement, making it feel less formal, less mechanical, and more personal - in turn encouraging deeper rapport and richer sharing.
  • Empowerment: When we allow people’s stories to unfold authentically, expressed in their own words, it signals a sense of empowerment, giving them a voice in shaping their experiences, now and in the future.
  • Purpose: Leveraging the latest advances in AI, we go beyond insightful exploration to intentionally guide each conversation to the areas we know matter, making the most of each individual’s contribution to underpin those insights we know our clients can act on.

Take a moment to reflect on some of the more meaningful connections you’ve had? You’ll easily recognize these principles at play each time. You felt heard, valued, and genuinely engaged. There was a sense of meaning and intention behind the conversation. It mattered.

That is the essence of whole-hearted engagement.

It is in the natural flow of AI-powered conversation where research stands to evolve beyond the transactional. It is through the stories shared in this more meaningful way that we connect, that we develop empathy, that we grow understanding.

And so, it is through turning to these stories that we can help our clients to more easily connect with the people behind the numbers – placing them at the center of the research we do and at the very heart of the decisions our clients need to make.

Watch the interview with Ansie Collier, Global Innovation Director, MMR Nova, to dive deeper into ways of fostering empathy and deeper insights through conversational research.