Qualtrics introduced its AI-powered Strategy & Research suite at its summit, X4, and launched its “Strategic UX” product — officially entering the experience research space. The new product supports various UX research methods like video feedback, unmoderated usability testing, card sorting, and tree testing, and it leverages AI to generate insights and recommended actions. Adding UX research to its experience management solutions, Qualtrics aims to support organizations’ research efforts at scale with a single platform. 

Qualtrics AI was the highlight of the event as it aims to help users get deeper insights through interactive dashboards, data analysis, and recommendations on next steps. These are strong promises, and other leading firms in the experience research space are also similarly improving their AI capabilities and expanding their research toolset. UserTesting, one of the leaders in experience research, recently added AI-powered surveys to its toolset to collect feedback at scale and introduced the Feedback Engine. 

What do these AI integrations and the research platforms’ expansion of their toolset tell us about the future of experience research? The conversations I’ve had with our clients and attendees at X4 drive me to conclude that experience research will unlock AI’s true potential as long as the research expertise plays the key role in shaping research strategy. That means: 

  1. AI is not a replacement for research. AI is changing how we ideate, analyze, and synthesize research findings by creating efficiencies (e.g., lowering mundane tasks, summarizing interviews, etc.), but interpreting those findings in the broader context of the user is on us. Determining the right approach to the right problem is still what drives impact. Therefore, while AI accelerates the research workflow, companies still need a collaborative, rigorous research process to produce high-impact research that supports decision-making. 
  2. AI facilitates democratization of research — but it needs guardrails. As AI has potential to accelerate the research workflow, it also brings new possibilities to democratize research. For instance, AI-generated tools (e.g., AI-generated interview templates) help novice researchers conduct research and improve their skills. However, when executed poorly, democratization can do more harm than good and can lead to the wrong approach or poor interpretations of data, which is even more important with AI because it can sometimes produce biased outputs. To democratize research responsibly, institute a process with guardrails. For instance, one of the speakers at X4, who is working to democratize research in their product teams, mentioned that only people with a proven track of high-quality research get permission to contribute to the research repository, so they can keep its quality high and use it to inform their AI.
  3. Companies’ research needs vary. Consolidation of research tools benefits companies looking for all-in-one solutions, but companies with specialized research needs and limited budgets must explore alternatives. For instance, firms primarily conducting research with their own community of users do not need research platforms with robust recruitment capabilities. Assess your current research needs and consider your future research plans (e.g., how your practice will grow) to pick a research platform that best suits your needs.

If you are a Forrester client and would like to discuss this topic further or have questions about experience research landscape, set up a conversation with me.