Attention has been commodified, becoming more valuable and scarcer every day. In this post you will learn how to get inside the minds of your customers using eye tracking; enabling you to optimize products and win consumer attention. Watch a short introduction to the consumer journey!
In the age of the attention economy, all businesses must compete for the increasingly limited resource of consumer engagement. There has never been a more crowded landscape of products, retailers, websites, apps, media, and other content for the modern shopper to choose from. For this reason, it's more important than ever for companies to conduct research that elucidates how to optimally capture the interest of their potential customers.
Traditional market research methods such as shop-along interviews, in-depth interviews, and surveys are useful tools, but they are limited in that they rely solely on explicit consumer responses and are thus subject to bias, misremembering, and a general inability to articulate underlying decision drivers.
To put it simply, you may not be able to trust what a consumer is telling you. However, you can always trust what they are showing you. Eye tracking is a powerful research tool that implicitly shows us what captures the eye when a consumer is watching a commercial, shopping for a product, browsing the internet, and much more. Many of our decisions are made subconsciously, making it difficult to explain and talk about our behaviors. Eye tracking is a precise and accurate way of objectively revealing what drives decision-making and behavior during every step of the consumer journey, without any conscious filtering.
Traditional methods show consumer desire and actions. Eye tracking reveals hidden consumer interest and what is truly capturing their attention.
Businesses that leverage eye tracking in their consumer research practices better understand the consumer and what they are thinking, making them more effective at capturing consumer attention and ultimately, converting that attention into sales.
Implementing eye tracking research at the following four stages of the consumer journey will help you understand and optimize factors that influence consumer decisions at-home, online, in-store, and using the product. For illustration purposes, we will use the fictitious vacuum cleaner. Let's call him "Sweepy."
Research Objective: The Sweepy Corporation is running a television ad campaign for their new Sweepy X vacuum cleaner and wants to understand if their new ad is effectively capturing viewer attention and delivering their intended message.
Eye Tracking Approach: In order to capture natural television viewing behavior in real living rooms, Sweepy has chosen to provide wearable eye tracking devices to participants at home to allow research to be conducted in a real-world environment. This approach allows them to collect accurate data on what caught and held viewer attention, what they ignored, and what distracted them without the presence of researchers.
Study Results: Data showed that participants did not see sufficient Sweepy branding to feel compelled to take next steps and further research the product. Sweepy is going back to their advertising agency to improve brand presence in subsequent campaigns.
Research Objective: Sweepy wishes to better understand how easy or difficult it is for consumers to shop for their products on Amazon. They see a growing ecommerce trend with online sales up 20% in the past five years.
Eye Tracking Approach: Instead of depending on potentially biased survey responses and shaky proxy data like mouse clicks and hovers, Sweepy is using a remote eye tracking device to streamline the user journey and identify potential pain points that exist on their product display pages.
Study Results: Data showed that participants struggled to fully read many of the product descriptions and did not watch through any of the videos demonstrating the cleaning effectiveness of the products. The designers have decided to drastically shorten the product descriptions and replace many of the videos with product images.
Research Objective: Sweepy wants to evaluate the package design and in-store displays for their Sweepy X to ensure they are standing out from the competition.
Eye Tracking Approach: In addition to shop-along interviews, Sweepy has opted to facilitate in-store eye tracking research to understand consumers' full visual journey through the store and the findability of their product amongst competitors on the shelf.
Study Results: Data showed the packaging was very effective at attracting customers' attention, but when customers looked closer, they struggled to find important product specifications that influence their purchase decision. Designers will move and enlarge key product specifications to make them easier to find and read.
Research Objective: Sweepy recognizes that maintaining high customer satisfaction with their products is crucial to ensure brand loyalty. Therefore, they want to study customers' reactions to unboxing and using the product.
Eye Tracking Approach: In the past they relied on emailed surveys, but often received few responses, mainly from customers with extremely positive or negative opinions. Now they are opting to provide wearable eye trackers to new customers, again allowing them to collect data on their natural behavior in the home without any interference from researchers.
Study Results: Data showed a significant amount of frustration with the assembly instructions. The instructions are being redesigned to use less text and more illustrations for easier interpretation and vacuum assembly.
The better you can understand the consumer at every step of their path to purchase, the more easily you can understand how to attract their attention, gain their trust, acquire them as a customer, and hold onto them for life. Eye tracking is the only unobtrusive way to gain access to valuable subconscious thoughts and decisions, which is why it has become an indispensable research tool implemented by companies and research agencies around the world.
Click here to learn more about how you can use eye tracking in your next research project.
Mike Bartels is the senior research director for Tobii Pro Insight in North America. Over the past nine years he has designed, conducted, and analyzed eye tracking studies in a variety of fields, including web usability, user experience, package design, consumer contexts, advertising, and applied science. Bartels has an M.A. in Experimental Psychology and has written eye tracking-related articles for several marketing research publications (Quirks, QRCA Views) and scientific conferences (HCII, ETRA).