Market research relies upon a respondent’s ability to articulate his or her feelings about a particular product, idea and/or experience. Through market research measures, especially qualitative ones, businesses attempt to bring to light the intricate motivators affecting consumer buying behavior. Yet, we all know that feelings are rarely rational. This often makes thoughtful contemplation about them an exercise in futility for not just researchers, but for respondents, too. Quite frequently, we simply don’t understand why we think the way we do; we only know that we do.
Indeed, scientists have long known that subconscious desire affects decision-making processes and actions, but it’s only been over the past few years that market researchers have started routinely applying neuroscience technologies in a market research setting with the hope of better understanding people’s visceral responses and, thus, informing business applications with better insights and better outcomes. With a variety of biometric measures, researchers no longer have to rely on a respondent’s capacity to accurately describe his or her reaction; they can see for themselves. Take a look at how using neuroscience in market research can produce results for you:
Facial Coding and Eye Tracking
There are seven basic emotions (happiness, sadness, fear, anger, disgust, contempt and surprise) and one of the best ways to identify them is by watching a person’s facial expressions, which typically occur spontaneously in response to the environment. For market researchers, facial expression and eye movement can highlight how a respondent really feels about something (whether it’s a survey question or an advertisement, news story, online experience or other encounter). Correlating emotional response to positive or negative action (such as advance to or retreat from purchase) can help companies fine-tune their future strategies. Eye tracking, in particular, noting where and how long and in what order a respondent looks at something, can tell researchers the critical ideas or images that attract and repel attention and interest.
Electrocardiograph (ECG or EKG)
An ECG measures the heart’s electrical activity via electrodes attached to the skin. Researchers can use ECGs to observe the way a respondent’s heart reacts to certain stimuli. For instance, researchers might show a respondent an advertisement and note how (or if) his or her heart rate changes, tracking and connecting those changes to emotional responses like stress, fear and relief. Similar studies can be used to evaluate how a consumer perceives a brand, uses virtual coupons and reacts to news stories concerning a particular company (as well as countless other ways), using the data gleaned to modify business marketing materials, incentives, social networking practices and more.
Like ECGs, EEGs measure electrical activity. However, instead of heart activity, EEGs measure the physiological changes of the brain using electrodes attached to the scalp. Both ECGs and EEGs give a more comprehensive view of respondent behavior because heart and brain reactions are typically unaffected by conscious thought. If you couple this fact with the belief that emotional intensity increases memory saturation, then it becomes apparent that the ability to detect implicit memory processes (the almost infinitesimal changes that occur as we experience emotions and make our most imprinted memories) can help market researchers better predict consumer behavior based on their bodies’ involuntarily responses.
Need More Info?
Of course, there are many additional ways to use neuroscience in market research such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and galvanic skin response (GSR). The possibilities are almost limitless. If you need assistance determining what you can use to get real-time results that shed light on the hidden (and often unknown) motivations for your consumers’ behaviors, contact our team at Communications for Research (CFR). We have over two decades of experience crafting market research projects that produce actionable results. We can help you incorporate neuroscience into your next market research venture.