How to understand and influence consumer behavior

  • by Mike Bartels
  • 6 min

The consumer journey - Tobii

In the digital age, attention is increasingly becoming a commodity. With every company’s marketing material jostling for position in an oversaturated environment, we no longer have the luxury of simply trusting in our creative concepts. We have to understand how the customer thinks on a deeper level in order to win and hold their attention.

Why traditional market research falls short

Traditional market research methods such as shop-along interviews, in-depth interviews, and surveys are useful tools, but they only get you so far. Why? These methods rely solely on explicit consumer responses and are thus subject to bias, foggy memories, and varying abilities to articulate underlying decision drivers. To put it simply, you can’t always trust what a consumer is telling you.

To obtain truly valuable research conclusions, we need to deal with the bias in human recall. Eye tracking provides that gateway, with direct access to raw data on gaze patterns, focal points, and the spread of attention. Since many of our behaviors happen subconsciously, it would be impossible for participants to accurately explain them. Eye tracking is a precise and reliable way of revealing what influences our decisions at every step of the customer journey.

Illustration for eye tracking and tradional methods

Traditional methods show consumer desire and actions. Eye tracking reveals hidden consumer interest and what truly captures their attention.

Eye tracking reveals insights at every stage

Businesses that leverage eye tracking in their consumer research practices are more effective at capturing consumer attention and ultimately, converting that attention into conversion. From developing this technology and helping integrate it into the toolbox of market researchers, we’ve discovered the four critical touchpoints that you need to own in order to remain ahead of the game.

Let’s explore these four consumer touchpoints through the hypothetical, Company A:

1. Discovery of the product: Assessing your marketing campaign

Objective: Imagine Company A is running a television ad campaign for a new product and want to understand if the new ad is effectively capturing viewer attention while delivering the intended message.

Approach: In order to capture natural television viewing behavior in real living rooms, Company A has chosen to provide eye tracking glasses 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.

Results: Data showed that participants did not see sufficient branding to feel compelled to take next steps and further research the product. Company A is going back to their advertising agency to improve brand presence in subsequent campaigns.

Consumer Journey research with eye tracking - Tobii Pro insight

2.Evaluation of the product: Optimizing communication on ecommerce sites

Objective: Company A 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.

Approach: Instead of depending on potentially biased survey responses and shaky proxy data like mouse clicks and hovers, Company A is using an eye tracker to streamline the user journey and identify potential pain points that exist on their product display pages.

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 effectiveness of the products. The designers have decided to drastically shorten the product descriptions and replace many of the videos with product images.

Consumer Journey research with eye tracking - Tobii Pro insight

3.Purchase of the product: Understanding the in-store experience

Objective: Company wants to evaluate the package design and in-store displays for their new product to ensure they are standing out from the competition.

Approach: In addition to shop-along interviews, Company A 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.

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.

Consumer Journey research with eye tracking - Tobii Pro insight

4. Use of the product: Managing satisfaction from A to Z.

Objective: Company A 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.

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, allowing them to collect data on their natural behavior in the home.

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.

Consumer Journey research with eye tracking - Tobii Pro insight

Staying competitive in the attention economy

Ensuring you can capitalize on consumer attention is the most important thing to aspire toward as a market researcher. By failing to do so, content risks falling on deaf ears, resulting in poor conversion and wasted resources. With eye tracking your company regains its edge, visualizing hidden thoughts and decision drivers that put you one step ahead of the competition.

Visit Tobii Insight to learn more about how you can use eye tracking in your next research project.

The search for ‘why?

Your guide to understanding consumer behavior with eye tracking.

Written by

  • Mike Bartels

    Mike Bartles

    Director of Marketing research and user experience

    Mike Bartels has a master’s degree in experimental psychology and 12 years of experience within the field of eye-tracking research and attention measurement, across a range of different areas of commercial and academic fields. His publications include eye tracking–related articles for several marketing research magazines including Quirks, QRCA Views, MRA Alert, and a book chapter in Eye Tracking in User Experience Design (published in 2014 by Schall and Bergstrom). He has presented at several scientific conferences including the Human-Computer Interaction International Conference, IIEX and the Eye Tracking Research and Applications Conference.

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