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Eye Tracking in Market Research

Find out how the methodology can be used to measure attention and give insights into decision-making processes.

Imagine you have finished your workday and want to relax. You reach for your mobile phone, open a social media app and start scrolling through its content. Amongst pictures of friends and colleagues, there is an ad for a product on sale. Although the company published it hoping that you would stop scrolling, click on the ad, and purchase the product, chances are you might not even notice the ad. Or you might notice, but unconsciously ignore it because your brain already knows how to quickly recognize and overlook advertising. Frustrating for the marketer who planned the campaign, right? 

Clinical tests showed that Americans are exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 ads every day, so no wonder our brain is trained to identify and ignore brands and advertising unless it is something of our interest. Research also has shown that people look at 67% of ads for less than a second, which underscores the importance of creating ads that are visually captivating enough to engage the target audience. This is a huge challenge for marketers around the world, who work to make their ads stand out among the thousands of advertisements that people come into contact with each day. So, how to grab attention when there is so much competition?

We are exposed to thousand of ads on the streets, TV, computer, and mobile phone eyery day. (Source: Jose Saura/Pexels)

Companies and agencies have been using several methodologies and tools to understand customer behaviour and experience to produce a successful brand, packaging or advertising, one of them being eye tracking. In this article, we are going to briefly explain what eye tracking is, show use cases that explain how the methodology reveals cognitive processes such as attention and perception, and finally discuss its application in combination with other methodologies. 

What is eye tracking?

Eye tracking is a research methodology based on measuring the movements of the eyes when the person is interacting with a visual stimulus in order to study where users or customers allocate their attention. In Market Research, the visual stimulus can be website, advertising, video, social media publication, packaging or shelves in a supermarket, amongst many others. With eye tracking you accurately measure where the person is looking and where their thoughts are at. 

The analysis and interpretation of the data collected can provide researchers with valuable insights into the unconscious decision-making processes. Eye tracking is a technology that supplies research with information about customer behaviour and engagement, revealing what visual elements are attractive and which are ignored by people. 

Eye tracking allows researchers to see through customers' eyes, providing valuable insights about their behavior. (Source: cottonbro/Pexels)

The eyes’ movements can be tracked by cameras attached to the computer, eye tracker glasses, webcams, and even the selfie camera of a mobile phone. The advance of technology has made this methodology much more accessible and easier to use, making it an excellent tool for marketers to conduct valuable research. 

Use cases in Market Research

The goal of using eye tracking for Market Research is to get a better understanding of customer behaviour and increase the effectiveness of marketing actions. By measuring and analysing visual attention from the target audience, it is possible to uncover unconscious behaviour and what elements attracts or repels the gaze. The data provided by eye tracking can help marketers to make better design decisions and create engaging content that will attract and retain leads. 

Eye tracking studies can be immensely advantageous for Market Research in several use cases and the combination of both fields is increasingly attracting the interest of the academia. According to research made using the EBSCO database, the number of publications containing the phrases “eye tracking” or “eye tracker” or “eye movement measurements” and “marketing” more than doubled in the period from 2014 to 2018 compared to previous years, showing the growing interest in this intersection. 

Here we list a few use cases that illustrate the use of eye tracking in Market Research and the insights it can offer: 

Packaging design

In 2009, the juice brand Tropicana replaced its original packaging (pictured on the left) with a new design for the North American market. It did not please the customers and, eventually, the company opted to go back to the original version. The company's mistake could have been avoided with eye tracking A/B testing comparing the two versions of the packaging to analyse which one would get a better response from the customer. 

We conducted an eye tracking study to compare the original packaging (left) to the redesign (right). (Source: Tropicana/Oculid)

At Oculid, we conducted a small qualitative study to see how visual attention is distributed in both packaging designs. We discovered that the original design’s logo is more attention-grabbing, the average number of fixations on the original version is higher and the average dwell time (total time participants spent looking at an Area of Interest) in the first design is also higher, indicating that people spend more time studying the packaging. Before releasing a packaging redesign, an eye tracking study can test if the relevant elements to increase awareness and attract customers are attractive to their target audience. 

You can also read the case study that compares different packaging designs from smoothies and how they affect the customer’s perception of the product. 

Website

Around 90% of shoppers say that they are not satisfied with their experiences with mobile commerce. And, according to PWC, 32% of all customers in the USA would stop doing business with a brand they loved after one bad experience. These data show the customer experience plays a key part in sales and should not be ignored. But how can you improve the customer journey on e-commerce? 

We conducted an eye tracking study to analyse how shoppers interact with the international retail brands Zalando, ASOS and Zara. The first task given to the participants was finding a hoodie made with sustainable material and adding it to the cart. Half of the participants were redirected to Zalando’s website, and a half to ASOS’. By looking at the data, it was possible to see people using visual guides such as a tag with the word “sustainable” to facilitate their search. We also noticed longer fixations on ASOS' page, indicating that participants needed more time to process the information on the website. 

The use of tags on Zalando's website (left) made it easier to find the sustainable products. The time spent on ASOS webiste (right) was longer. (Source: Zalando/ASOS/Oculid)

The second task given to the participants was accessing the NEW IN section on Zara’s website and finding a white shirt that they like. The eye tracking data combined with Oculid’s Thinking Aloud tool has shown that people had difficulty navigating between the sections “Women”, “Men”, and “Kids”. The results also demonstrated that many participants were annoyed by the large photos and videos that appeared on the main page since they were trying to get to the filter function and the visual elements were distracting.

Social media

In the same study, we used Oculid’s platform to test an Instagram ad from J/D Sports. We wanted to discover which visual elements pop up in the first seconds when customers see the ad on their smartphones. 

Testing a social media ad with eye tracking can give more information about which visual elements are attention-grabbing. (Source: JD Sports/Oculid)

By analysing a heatmap with aggregated data from all participants, we find out that people paid more attention to the brand’s logo than to the product that was being advertised. If the ad's goal is brand awareness the ad would have been successful, but if the goal is converting to sales the product's image has to be more appealing to attract customers.

To read the full case study “Customer experience using smartphone eye tracking” click here. 

Eye Tracking in combination with other methods 

Although eye tracking can offer actionable data that is only available through the use of the methodology, it generates better insights when combined with other Market Research methodologies and tools. Eye tracking can tell if the fixation duration at a certain AOI is long, but combining it with Thinking Aloud, for example, you can tell if the person is looking at it because it appeals to them, confuses them or intrigues them. 

Interview can be a great addition to an eye tracking study. (Source: Alex Green/Pexels)

Surveys, questionnaires, interviews, and ratings of the tasks can also be combined with eye tracking, offering excellent results that will improve marketing strategies. 

Conclusion

People are exposed to thousands of visual stimuli on the daily basis, many of them being some sort of advertising. Most of them are ignored, and that is why standing out and being noticed is extremely challenging for marketers. Eye tracking became extremely valuable to the Market Research field: it measures attention and gives marketers the tools necessary to create a successful campaign. 

Measuring eye movements can be applied to several use cases and combined with other methodologies, offering insights that can benefit any research. 

Market

February 8, 2022