The last time I introduced you to neuromarketing or consumer neuroscience, which is a multidisciplinary field integrating marketing, neuroscience, and cognitive psychology. If you did not read it, click here. We discuss this time one of the techniques that neuromarketing utilizes: Eye-tracking.
Why neuromarketing utilizes eye-tracking and how does it works?
Eye-tracking allows gathering a lot of detailed, unbiased information about the visual attention to marketing stimuli. It can be studied in controlled laboratories, or in any space, the level of detailed data that eye-tracking provides is unreachable to traditional techniques of marketing such as interviews, observations, surveys, and self-reports, since we are unable to explain in terms of actions per milliseconds which exact point do we stare at, for exactly how long, in what specific order did we fixated at distinct points, how each of the details we focused in made us feel, and so you get my point now, right? – keep on reading.
From the neuromarketing perspective, eye-tracking can provide detailed important information regarding the visual activities that prompt brain activity. Such as gaze points, fixations, gaze duration, saccade (movement of the eye between fixation points), and pupil dimension. These measurements can be displayed as an individual or aggregated heatmap for areas of interest, focus maps, and gaze paths, and provide the time spent, visits, and revisits of the different elements in the picture or layout. A heatmap shows the distribution of attention with a color-coded map superimposed over the elements of interest of an image, often employing a red (high interest) towards green (low interest) intensity indicator (see the image below as an example). A gaze path connects fixations to provide the path a participant scans as they view the image or screen. In the case of a video, visualizations of the data can also be a space time cube visualization and gaze stripes visualization to analyze individual differences in a sequence of small images.
Eye-tracking is best used in conjunction with biometrics and other types of equipment to measure cognitive responses. For example, connecting the tool to facial coding can generate results that show the accurate point that the individual is looking at and the emotional response it has to the different stimuli. With this synchrony, the researcher can access reliable data to understand the factors driving a customer’s reaction to a given stimulus (Ioka & Anukwe, 2020). The benefit is significant, take the case of analyzing a video advertisement, with the vast amount of information generated per millisecond, as the viewer is exposed to frame after frame, all the fixation points would not tell us much but in conjunction with other measurements can provide the ability to identify the nature of the fixation points, meaning factors that drove their attention positively or negatively during the video providing feedback on which to make decisions to improve the results of a campaign.
Today, researchers can run eye-tracking studies using different software options combined with:
- Specialized Devices, modern video-based eye trackers are equipped with one or two cameras and one or more infrared light sources. The infrared light illuminates the eyes and face creating a corneal reflection, while the camera films the eyes and the face. Eye trackers compute the point of regard by comparing the location of the pupil in the camera image, to the location of the corneal reflection in the camera image (Holmqvist et al., 2011).
- Standard webcam. It is possible to use your laptop camera or webcam with some available solutions. However, the accuracy of the webcam-based eye-tracking results is lower as it depends on the webcam resolution.
- Remote Wearable Devices, glasses that record participants’ eyes and what they are looking at while shopping, watching TV, browsing online, etc.
- Immersive Virtual Reality (VR) devices, allow eye-tracking studies in VR immersive spaces, for instante virtual retail outlet or store shelf, shopping isles and planograms.
With these tool, brands can use the data generated to answer a series of questions such as:
- The main points of attention consumers fixate on a store shopping experience.
- Whether customers read the information on websites, posters, magazines, etc. Or they glance at the information without reading.
- The extent of attention consumers pay to video advertising and the elements they focus on in the different frames and the order in which they do so.
- The comparative fixation, browsing, and searching patterns for different websites layouts (Sutcliffe & Namoun, 2012).
- The usability problems and features that capture the most interest in a webpage.
Eye-tracking does open a wide range of opportunities for neuromarketing. However, challenges come with it. As identified by Iloka and Anukwe (2020):
- Alone the system can tell researchers what the person is looking at, but not necessarily how the viewer perceives the point being gazed at, whether a positive or negative emotional response accompanies the visual attention.
- Webcam applications of these tools are less precise and accurate when compared to the in-lab solutions.
- Eye-tracking systems only record the center of the person’s visual gaze (foveal vision). They cannot record the periphery of an individual’s visual gaze. However, researchers have initiated examining the role of peripheral vision in the consumer choice process using an eye-tracking methodology. For example, this study from 2018:: “ Unsold is unseen … or is it? Examining the role of peripheral vision in the consumer choice process using eye-tracking methodology”.
I will leave you with a short video, from the neuromarketing company Neural-Sense, that shows you a bit of everything you have read today regarding eye-tracking in neuromarketing. Remember to leave your questions in the comments! Let me know what else would you like to know regarding neuromarketing, what should I write next about, maybe about how are brain scans used in neuromarketing? do you want to know specific brands and cases using neuromarketing? Or just ask anything you want to know about this field.