Neuromarketing is an emerging field when it comes to eCommerce. The practice uses medical, scientific and AI technologies that measure physical responses such as brain activity, skin sweat response (the technology behind polygraph, or lie detector testing), and facial emotional analysis in order to study the brain’s responses to stimuli. In the case of eCommerce business, these stimuli take the form of desktop websites, mobile or tablet websites, or mobile apps. What these findings can tell us, is how customers are responding to stimuli on a physiological level, in real time. In other words, it’s now possible to get an idea of what your customers are actually thinking when they are interacting with your brand, product or service – as opposed to relying on feedback, which has its limitations. These forms of scientific testing are tried and tested in educational institutions (e.g. universities and research institutes) but have only recently been introduced into mainstream business. And it’s been catching on. In Europe alone, we are seeing enterprises across a variety of industries (from private enterprise, government agencies and even not-for-profit sectors) take the leap into this new area, and the results are exciting. Big businesses are steering more and more toward digital transactions, and less toward High Street bricks-and-mortar stores. And the smaller businesses are following suit. But when you don’t have a physical footfall, how do you know who your customers actually are, and how do you begin to measure and understand what it is that they want? Neuromarketing helps you find out – in a very accurate way. This new gap in the industry is fertile territory for business growth and improved customer satisfaction. In this article, we will investigate the methods for understanding what your customers are thinking, how findings from these insights are actually applied, and what kind of results other businesses are achieving using these techniques.
What is Neuromarketing – An Insight into Neuromarketing Research
The first step in understanding your customers thoughts is the application of neuromarketing (or biometric) research. Although it may conjure images of fingerprints and eye-scanning technologies for the likes of passports and security, we’re talking about similar techniques, for the purposes of testing your website. Neuromarketing (or biometric) testing is like focus group research on steroids. It starts more or less in the same way. A business (or third party contracted on behalf of the business) reaches out to its customer base to recruit a number of users for testing. The customers are invited to participate, explained what it involves, and compensated in some way for their time. A researcher runs the session, and asks customers in a one-on-one format, their thoughts and opinions on the product, service or experience. There the comparison between focus groups neuromarketing research ends. The next phase for the customer is to be connected up to various forms of scientific testing equipment. It sounds a bit scary, but by the time the customer has answered the first few baseline questions, they tend to forget all about the biometrics equipment. The testing kit usually includes the following:
Electroencephalograph (EEG) Cap
It sounds scary and looks even worse. But essentially an EEG cap is a harmless grid of electrodes that fits snugly over a customers head. These electrodes are painless, and simply but brilliantly measure changes in electrical activity in a person’s brain. As a customer wears the cap and performs a task on a website or app, it is possible to see what reactions they are experiencing, and what areas of the brain are reacting to, when completing the task.
Facial Emotional Analysis
West. The result of the 4 billion frames tested is a piece of technology that can very accurately measure minute changes in facial muscles. A simple calibration exercise is required at the beginning of the session for each customer. As a customer completes an online task, 34 facial mapping points record and analyse the corresponding emotions being logged against that individual.
This one doesn’t need too much of an introduction. We monitor customer heart rate throughout the duration of the biometrics testing session. This gives you another angle to analyse spikes in physiological response to the digital journey being tested.
Galvanic Skin Response (Skin Sweat Receptor Testing)
If you have had experience with polygraph or lie detector testing, then this will be familiar. Painless electrodes are applied to the customers fingertips, and whilst they complete a digital task, minute changes in skin sweat levels are measured and recorded. In eCommerce, many of the decisions we make and actions we take are actually performed on an unconscious level. This is another instrument of measure that allows you to gain a bigger picture view of your customers thoughts and experiences.
This is another clever piece of technology, that is attached to a desktop monitor and captures eye tracking from light reflected off the retina. In other words, it projects an undetectable beam of light into the customers eyes, which can capture the reflection of where the customer is fixated on the screen. This is accurate to a small measure on the screen itself. This is considered to be a much more accurate and reliable measure of areas of interest on screen than mouse tracking alone.
This is a much more straightforward data collection technology. The customers mouse is tracked on screen, so it is possible to analyse using heat maps, the areas of greatest mouse and click activity. This is a useful tool for identifying areas of the screen where customers are struggling to find key call-to-action buttons or prompts.
In Biometric Research, customers are connected to all or some of the above forms of testing equipment whilst they complete a series of tasks. Throughout the tasks, it is possible to observe the customers emotional responses to the different stages of the task they are performing (such as frustration at a website not working properly, anger at pricing values, or excitement at checkout for example), what areas of the website or app are most visible to your customers, and those areas or call-to-actions that they are missing, and what tasks your demographic struggle with, or enjoy for instance.
How To Apply Your Neuromarketing Findings – Conversion Rate Optimization
Once you have gathered the data that indicates your customer thoughts, it becomes time to apply these findings. In the world of eCommerce, that next step takes the form of Conversion Rate Optimization (or CRO for short). This is the application of data insights to refine your digital presence. It is a system for increasing the percentage of visitors that convert into customers, or, take any desired action on a website.
The analysis off the back of the research should take the form of an actionable user experience report. Key findings should be summarised into relevant categories, and hypotheses clearly defined. These hypotheses are the suggestions for solving the problems your customers have encountered. They form the basis for your first round of A/B testing – where some of your website customers are exposed to version ‘A’ of a page, and some of your website customers are exposed to version ‘B’. Once these tests have run for a period of time, you are able to ascertain which of ‘A’ or ‘B’ performed best. This version is then updated across the entirety of the site traffic. This optimises and increases the related conversions for that metric.
Your resulting report should highlight the key positive and negative findings, hypotheses for improvements, details of A/B testing plans, recommendations and results. In the case studies below, we will take a look at some real world examples.
Measuring Success – Big Brand Case Studies
Let’s take a look at some high-profile examples of businesses applying neuromarketing within their business, and how they increased sales as a direct result.
Government Department Example: The Post Office (UK)
Her Majesty’s Post Office has historically been a bricks-and-mortar branch style of business. With the decline of the high street, and customers moving more to electronic forms of communication, the Post Office were conscious of staying relevant in a digital world. The Post
Office undertook a project to complete overhaul their old style of delivery of products and services to customers. In the first 6 months after their neuromarketing research and implementation of it’s findings, they had already saved £250,000. Now their website offers self-service products such as various forms of insurance, foreign currency, mortgages and banking etc. Key findings from the research report, that were consequently the key points to focus on for their optimization plan, included:
- 30% of users could not see the main call-to-action button on the homepage of the website
- 99% of users experienced an error message at a particular point of applying for travel insurance online (input of the date of birth field)
- 73% of users received an error message after failing to click a ‘T’s and C’s’ button, which wasn’t obvious to them as being clickable
- Customers were also found to be confused at the pricing page. This was found to be due to over-information, and too many pricing bundles for users to choose from.
Not-for-Profit Example: The British Heart Foundation
The British Heart Foundation recently completed a piece of neuromarketing research on customers of their website. This included those who had experienced heart issues, had been diagnosed, donate to the charity and those whose family members suffer or suffered from a heart condition. Their conversion rate optimization is currently in progress, implementing the changes required after the following findings were revealed during their research:
- Over half of customers could not find key call-to-action buttons on the homepage
- 67% of customers could not find the “how to donate an item to the BHF” button
- 67% of customers were confused by the terminology “book a collection”, which they thought should be called “donate furniture”
- 83% of customers disagreed with the suggested amounts for cash donations
- 50% of customers could not find how to make a “one-off donation”.
Private Enterprise Example: ASOS
ASOS is one of the Top 10 online fashion retailers in the UK, as reported by Google. This measure is based solely on the measure of website traffic volume. As ASOS is a purely eCommerce business model, understanding their digital customers thoughts, and optimizing their online journey for them is critical. The following key learnings were unearthed from their neuromarketing & biometric research:
- Customers got to the checkout page 22% faster on competitor sites than on ASOS (Boohoo & Zara)
- Once in the checkout section, it took ASOS customers 9% longer to complete the checkout process than on competitor sites
- Customers loved the homepage image, commenting on the diversity of the people represented, and spend on average 15.5 seconds looking at it
- Customers were frustrated by not being able to quickly return to the homepage by clicking on the logo
- 67% of customers observed that product filtering features could have been improved if the filters remained visible after applying.
Reading your customers thoughts is no longer a far-flung dream for the future. It is something that is now becoming possible with physiological measures. The insights unearthed from neuromarketing biometrics research is ‘from the horse’s mouth’. In other words, it doesn’t just rely on the self-reporting feedback of customers, but takes it to the next level in gaining an unconscious and more holistic view of the true customer experience. It seems obvious that understanding more about what your customers are truly thinking is an invaluable tool for business. This cannot be more true for digital businesses and in particular, for eCommerce traders. In a growing corner of the market that services an invisible customer, gaining insights into who your customer is and what their needs really are, has never been more vital for business success.
Findings from this research can be applied through the practice of Conversion Rate Optimization (or CRO) which refines and optimizes your digital journey. In essence, it minimises barriers for your customers when they are making a purchase, and it increases their enjoyment and satisfaction in the overall process.
As with all new technologies or strategies, enterprise level businesses often become the early adopters. In the case of neuromarketing, there is fast uptake in this tier across a range of industries. The common denominator is the importance they place on their web presence. This is big business – and even optimization of the smallest percentages equals multi-millions in both cost savings and generated revenue. The Post Office saved £250,000 in the first 6 months of implementing their CRO programme after their neuromarketing research. If you are trading online – it’s time to start thinking about incorporating proactive neuromarketing initiatives into your strategy for growth. This is the era of ‘The Customer Experience’. Understanding, anticipating and catering to your customers’ needs will be the mark of success and failure more and more, particularly as we move into a more digitised future of retail.