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True Impact conducted a neuromarketing study of m-commerce applications, in partnership with Plastic Mobile. The applications included Pizza Pizza, Best Buy and Hyatt.
While it will always remain important to measure explicit responses through surveys or focus groups, we must not underestimate the power of emotions in driving decision making. They are automatic, instant gut feelings that we are often unaware of, yet they are the best indicators of behaviour. When paired with traditional marketing research methodologies, neuroscience helps measure these feelings and provides a more complete, colourful and interesting picture of the customer – one that portrays him as much more than data.
F E ATURE
THE SCIENCE OF
In the “good old days,” marketers thought of the customer as a
logical information processor, running virtually emotion-free.
It was assumed that he thinks in terms of information and
can accurately retrieve this information at any point in time.
He uses cost-benefit calculations that rationally determine his
preferences. Sounds like the customer is Mr. Spock, doesn’t it?
This model – the rational consumer model – was developed
in light of traditional
methodologies. In accord
with this model, focus
and surveys have
the marketing research
industry over the past
century, relying on two
that people can identify
their preferences, and that they
can accurately remember the past.
However, almost everyone in the marketing research
industry knows that self-reporting measures can be misleading
and unreliable, and that they send researchers in the wrong
vue December 2013
The simple action of asking a question can influence the
answer. Similarly, offering a cue to help retrieve an emotion can
alter the truth. For example, when you hear the word airport,
you will probably imagine aircraft and big buildings. If you’re
then asked to spell the word plain, you will most likely spell it
plane (as in airplane) because of the priming effect of the word
Although marketing research technologies have been
improving their techniques and controls, the underlying
challenge of relying on explicit assessments can lead to overrationalization of answers and an incomplete view of the
customers. To help complete the picture, neuroscience has gone
from the lab to the boardroom in an effort to provide implicit
measures of emotion and to deliver predictions of behaviour.
The innovative field that evolved is called neuromarketing,
and it refers to the application of neuroscience technologies
to solving marketing and advertising challenges. Initially
conceived around 2002 by Nobel laureate Ale Smidts,
neuromarketing has been increasingly applied to retail,
consumer packaged goods, and entertainment industries,
among many others.
Customer understanding enhanced through neuroscience
has provided major companies such as Coca-Cola, Campbell’s
F EATUR E
and P&G with a competitive advantage. The key is in the way
neuroscientists view the customer: not as rational, but as highly
emotional. In contrast to the rational consumer model, the
intuitive consumer model states that people make decisions
based on their responses to certain situations. In fact, as much
as 90 per cent of decision-making occurs at an emotional level.
For example, the customer does not do a lot of deliberate
thinking about brands he purchases on a regular basis. He
retrieves information from the past in a loose manner, and his
preferences are highly influenced by his friends’ opinions.
He is not persuaded by
logical arguments, but by
repetition, positive themes,
and good imagery. The
consumer may not be like
Mr. Spock after all, but
more like Dr. McCoy.
The notion that
emotions drive behaviour
has been at the centre
of many debates in
the boardroom. It’s
important to note that, in
addition to challenging the status quo, neuromarketing
research is being successfully implemented by major companies
every day. In the past decade, neuroscience has contributed to
a deeper understanding of the customer, offering never-beforeseen insights that improve marketing effectiveness. In addition,
studies have shown that measurements of brain and body
reactions are much better predictors of behaviour. The truth is
that people may say what they think; however, they’ll always
act on how they feel.
With all of this in mind, True Impact Marketing
partnered with Plastic Mobile to understand how users
truly feel about the mobile commerce, or m-commerce,
experience. Plastic Mobile is a New York and Toronto–based
mobile agency focused on helping top brands build their
businesses through mobile. The agency is the first to admit
that delivering successful commerce capabilities in a mobile
application is not as easy as one may think. Mobile phones
have become ubiquitous and highly personal, if not intimate,
pieces of technology. As is the case with other channels of
communications, brands that set up a commerce environment
within an app face the challenges of (a) being seen, (b) being
seen as relevant, and (c) being contacted.
To meet these challenges, the two firms teamed up to apply
neuroscience to user experience, and to spark a revitalized
understanding of usability and of design preferences. How
critical are usability and design to users’ emotional experience?
What can m-commerce professionals learn from the implicit
reactions of people using mobile apps? What are the key factors
that define a successful m-commerce app?
The best way to answer these questions was to go directly
to the source of emotion, the brain. The most portable
and affordable technology to measure brain activity is
electroencephalography (EEG). Much improved since its
beginnings in the 1960s, the EEG uses a light, wireless
headset that records the brain’s electrical activity. By knowing
how to filter and interpret the considerable data collected,
neuromarketers are able to derive emotional states related to
the brain reacts to
m-commerce apps was
critical; however, we also
wanted to understand
what grabs the user’s
attention. To address
this need, we paired
EEG with eye-tracking
us to learn what the
users are attracted to
visually and what sort
of emotional reactions
they are experiencing.
A study participant sho
wing some of the
March 2013, the study
technology used in the
included thirty mobilesavvy participants who
brought their own iPhone (iPhone 4, 4s or 5) to navigate
three mobile applications in the m-commerce category: Pizza
Pizza, Best Buy, and Hyatt. We outlined a single user journey,
a five-step navigation process consistent across all three mobile
applications, in order to get a better understanding of how
users navigate mobile commerce, and what contributes to
a positive or negative user engagement. It was important to
keep the stages consistent in order to be able to compare the
effectiveness of each app.
In addition to using brain imaging technology and eye
tracking, we surveyed the participants before and after exposure
to the app. Doing so helped us compare what they said with
how they truly felt; and the findings were impressive.
Figure 1: EEG Metrics: Emotional Engagement (blue) and
Attentional Activation (red)
vue December 2013
F E ATURE
Figure 2: The Most- and Least-Liked Stages in the App
Figure 3: Participant Expression of Intention to Use the
Pizza Pizza Mobile App in the Near Future
When the Brain and Mouth Disagree
Pizza Pizza wins at checkout, with a simple and
straightforward user experience. When the immediacy of the
reward (i.e., food delivered within an hour) is factored in, the
user is both emotionally invested and keenly interested. The
bottom line is that, once a customer is interested, it’s imperative
that delivery be as quick and as easy as possible. Also, among
the three apps, this one is the most downloaded and the most
positively reviewed in the App Store.
The full report of this study can be downloaded by going to
www.trueimpact.ca or www.plasticmobile.com
One of the seven key findings of this study highlights the
importance of diving below the surface of spoken assessments
in order to understand the consumer’s true opinion. The Pizza
Pizza navigation process included opening the app, choosing a
pizza, customizing the toppings, proceeding to checkout, and
finally entering personal information.
When asked, 62 per cent said they preferred the selection
stage, which included choosing the pizza and its toppings. Also,
55 per cent said they disliked the checkout stage, including
entering their personal and payment details. So far, this
response makes perfect sense, since the most painful part of any
transaction is actually paying for it.
Upon reviewing the brain activities of this group, we learned
that the checkout stage was, in fact, the most emotionally
engaging. By setting the lowest values for emotion and
attention for the entire study at 0 per cent and the highest
values at 100 per cent, we saw 100 per cent emotional
activation for the checkout stage and an impressive 76 per cent
attentional activity. See figures 1 and 2.
In the post-survey, 79 per cent of users said they would use
the Pizza Pizza app again. See figure 3.
vue December 2013
The study described here is the first in the world to use
neuroscience for understanding the usability of m-commence
apps, and it opens the door to many future study directions.
For example, future studies might pursue questions such as
these: Are all food and beverage apps engaging at checkout?
What is the role of the immediacy of reward in the decisionmaking process on mobile? How do you facilitate the path to
purchase and make it easy to order food through an app?
While it will always remain important to measure explicit
responses, we must not underestimate the power of emotions
in driving decision making. They are automatic, instant
gut feelings that we are often unaware of, yet they are the
best indicators of behaviour. When paired with traditional
marketing research methodologies, neuroscience helps measure
these feelings and provides a more complete, colourful and
interesting picture of the customer – one that portrays him as
much more than data.
Diana Lucaci is the founder and CEO of True Impact Marketing,
an innovative neuromarketing research and strategy firm. Diana
serves as Canadian chair on the Neuromarketing Science &
Business Association (NMSBA) and was named one of the Top 30
Under Thirty by Marketing magazine in 2013. You can reach her
at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter