Neuromarketing Science & Business Association (NMSBA)

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  • August 26, 2013 10:04 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    A new method of analyzing MRI brain images enables researchers to determine which letter a test subject was looking at.

    brain scan letters
    Image courtesy of Radboud University Nijmegen

    By analyzing MRI images of the brain with an elegant mathematical model, it is possible to reconstruct thoughts more accurately than ever before. In this way, researchers from Radboud University Nijmegen have succeeded in determining which letter a test subject was looking at.

    The journal Neuroimage has accepted the article, which will be published soon.

    Functional MRI scanners have been used in cognition research primarily to determine which brain areas are active while test subjects perform a specific task. The question is simple: is a particular brain region on or off? A research group at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour at Radboud University has gone a step further: they have used data from the scanner to determine what a test subject is looking at.

    The researchers ‘taught’ a model how small volumes of 2x2x2 mm from the brain scans undefined known as voxels undefined respond to individual pixels. By combining all the information about the pixels from the voxels, it became possible to reconstruct the image viewed by the subject. The result was not a clear image, but a somewhat fuzzy speckle pattern. In this study, the researchers used hand-written letters.

    Prior knowledge improves model performance

    “After this we did something new’, says lead researcher Marcel van Gerven. ‘We gave the model prior knowledge: we taught it what letters look like. This improved the recognition of the letters enormously. The model compares the letters to determine which one corresponds most exactly with the speckle image, and then pushes the results of the image towards that letter. The result was the actual letter, a true reconstruction.”

    “Our approach is similar to how we believe the brain itself combines prior knowledge with sensory information. For example, you can recognise the lines and curves in this article as letters only after you have learned to read. And this is exactly what we are looking for: models that show what is happening in the brain in a realistic fashion. We hope to improve the models to such an extent that we can also apply them to the working memory or to subjective experiences such as dreams or visualisations. Reconstructions indicate whether the model you have created approaches reality.”

    Improved resolution; more possibilities

    “In our further research we will be working with a more powerful MRI scanner,” explains Sanne Schoenmakers, who is working on a thesis about decoding thoughts. “Due to the higher resolution of the scanner, we hope to be able to link the model to more detailed images. We are currently linking images of letters to 1200 voxels in the brain; with the more powerful scanner we will link images of faces to 15,000 voxels.”
  • August 14, 2013 10:02 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    What does a bookstore smell like? If you frequent used or antiquarian book sellers, you probably think of musty paper, perhaps with an occasional mildew note. In big box bookstores like Barnes & Noble, the predominant aroma is often a pleasant espresso smell from the coffee bar. But, all of these retailers need to rethink their scent environment – a new study to appear in the Journal of Environmental Psychology shows that infusing a chocolate scent into a bookstore kept shoppers browsing longer and inspecting more merchandise.

    ChocolateResearchers in Belgium monitored customers in a bookstore both with and without a subtle chocolate aroma. They found a significant effect on shopper behavior. When the scent was present, shoppers were:


    More than twice as likely to examine multiple items
    More than twice as likely to read synopses for multiple books
    Nearly three times as likely to interact with store staff
    Less than half as likely to seek out one item and go directly to the register

    The scientists also found that items “congruent” with the aroma of chocolate, food-related books and romance novels, saw an uptick in interest from female shoppers. There was an indication of a positive effect on sales, but the data was insufficient to draw a conclusion.

    They did note that customers browsed non-congruent categories less when the scent was present, so chocolate scent isn’t a panacea for every retail sales environment.
    Still, this study offers more evidence that subtle changes in environment can affect customer behavior. Music, too, can have an impact. In Audio Branding: ‘Tis the Season, I describe how a wine shop sold four times as much French wine when French music was playing in the background.

    What should retail stores do? While chocolate scent might be a good choice for a generally pleasant smell, dispersing an aroma that relates to the products for sale would likely be better. Selling hunting gear? Perhaps a woodsy pine scent. Similarly, a seaside aroma might work for a swim shop.

    Chocolate scent may not be enough to reverse the decline in bookstore sales, but this study points the way to keep customers in any retail environment shopping longer and looking at the merchandise more closely.

    Roger Dooley is the author of Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing (Wiley, 2011) and one of the speakers of last year's edition of the Neuromarketing World Forum in São Paulo. Find Roger on Twitter as @rogerdooley and at his website,Neuromarketing.

    This article originally appeared at Forbes.com: Keep Your Customers Shopping... With Chocolate!
  • August 08, 2013 09:58 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    The role of marketers is to influence consumer behaviour, both short- and long-term, in favour of the brands they manage. We need to retain our customer base, increase purchase frequency and turn non-users into users. Therefore the question of why consumers buy what they buy, and the search for what it is that determines their choices, are at the core of marketing.

    In a ground-breaking experiment (see figure 1), neuroscientist Brian Knutson, Professor at Stanford University, and his colleagues (2007) wanted to find out if it was possible to predict purchase behaviour by analyzing neural activity. His research began with images of products and brands undefined for example a box of chocolates undefined shown for a few seconds. Then, additionally, the price appeared on the screen, and finally the respondents had to state, by pushing a button, whether they would buy the chocolates or not.

    figure 1

    Figure 1 Illustration of the classic neuro- economics study ‘Neural predictors of purchases’ by Knutson and his colleagues from Stanford University

    Brain activities were measured the entire time using brain imaging (fMRI). This showed that the picture of the product or brand increases the activation of the so-called ‘reward system’, which is known to be triggered when we value something. It’s as if the brain says, ‘I want to have this.’ This wanting is based upon the value that we expect the product to deliver. In our associative memory we have experiences with the brand undefined from using it directly or indirectly, from processing its advertising or from seeing other people using it. Based on this associative learning we have an expected value delivered by the brand. If this expected value is high, then the reward system shows a high level of activation. If the value is low, then the level of activation will also be low.

    Now what happened when the price was also shown? When the price was exposed to the respondents, an entirely different area of the brain was activated, namely the insula. This area is normally activated when we experience pain undefined for example, when we cut our finger (physical pain) or if we are excluded from a group (social pain). In other words, when looking at price, the brain experiences pain undefined so that means that price isn't anything rational. Price is hot! Price is pain. To explain this we have to be aware that there is no ‘shopping’ module in the brain, nor is there a ‘buy button’ or a brand module. Rather, the brain has to ‘decide’ which of its existing neural modules, all developed for reasons totally different than shopping, should deal with products, brands and prices. The result makes intuitive sense. Products and brands reward us because they help us to achieve our goals. Prices imply giving away something we already own, and which is of significant value to us: money. That this is coded as a painful experience seems reasonable.

    The scientists then uncovered the underlying principle that determines whether the brand or product will be bought or not. The principle they found is strikingly straightforward: if the relation between reward and pain exceeds a certain value, the respondents are willing to purchase this item for this price. Our brain calculates a kind of ‘net value’ and if this is high enough, if the difference between reward and pain is great enough, then we buy. Based on this principle the scientists were able to accurately predict whether the respondents would buy these products or not, hence the title of their paper, ‘Neural predictors of purchases’.

    Knutson's results show that purchase decisions are based on a reward-pain relationship. This means that in marketing we have to levers to influence consumer decision making - reward and pain - and that they can be independently addressed. In order to make consumers buy, we can increase reward and at the same time decrease pain. It’s not uncommon, though, for marketers to adopt a dualistic mindset. For us, the question is whether to focus on the brand or, for example, on a special price offer, as if there were a dilemma in doing both. There isn't. The goal is to increase the ‘net value’ the brain calculates based on the expected reward of the product and the price. This enables the same piece of advertising to focus on the value that the brand or service offers but also to include a ‘hard sell’ price message (such as ‘for a limited period 30% off’). The first message increases the expected reward, the second reduces the pain, and the unity of both increases the net value.

    This simple but fundamental basis of decision making explains why Starbucks can command a premium price for its coffee, or why some people will pay three-figure sums for designer sunglasses. The reward triggered by the brand increases the perceived value, which makes us less resistant to the higher price. The price is higher but, correspondingly, the reward is too, so that, subjectively, a better value - cost relationship exists than that for cheap sunglasses.

    Source: Few pages from Decoded, The Science Behind Why We Buy

    phil bardenPhil Barden (Managing Director, Decode marketing ltd) is a proven marketer with over 25 years' experience including senior and international roles at high profile companies such as Unilever, Diageo and T-Mobile. He is the local NMSBA representative in the UK, speaker at the Neuro Retail Revolution on 3-4 October 2013 in Amsterdam and the author of Decoded, The Science Behind Why we Buy.
  • July 25, 2013 09:56 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)
    Why touchpoint management is a necessary success factor of everyday retail decision making

    Honestly: Do all your touchpoints really show the same emotional picture? I know: Professional CEM (Customer Experience Management) in retail- as in other industries – is like pulling together a puzzle. So many bits and pieces that need to fit together. So many bits and pieces that might lead to irritation if missing or showing “unexpected” details.
    And yes: an exciting game but still a challenging one for a lot of retailers in the battle of daily customer decision making. So many unknown touchpoints that nobody has ever dealt with or thought of before: Social media, rating platforms, on/offline combinations, new advertising strategies, showrooming, the shopping experience itself with all the different known elements from product range, store design, services, etc.

    Do all of these touchpoints along the customer decision journey talk the same emotional language? Are you sure you know and (!) are proactively designing all those touchpoints out there? Do I get to see the same picture whether I`m an applicant, a customer or a journalist? Does this emotional picture differ you from all the other competitors out there and help your customers to feel the unconscious emotional “yes” for their buying decisions all along the way?

    No wonder it makes sense to bring in neuro-expertise to all those elements of this complicated puzzle as the picture needs to be built so carefully and with so much attention to detail. But you probably already know what I´m heading at:
    No expert has a chance to create his input if the prerequisite - the basis of it all - is not clear enough: Who are you? Who is your target group?

    Now we are talking about limbic positioning as a first step with all the necessary consequences for the elements of your puzzle. Those need to strategically derive from this first step. Only then your customers will get the chance to experience the difference at all levels, at every single moment of truth: no matter if reading an article, talking to friends, seeing an ad, picking up the phone to call your employees or just happens to walk into your store.

    It can be fun working with such an attention to details. And be sure of one thing: Once your people know what makes your company special – know their uniqueness, have experienced (!) how much fun it can be to surprise and inspire their customers, they will be part of the ongoing game – ensuring the consistency of your emotional message as well as the everyday customer experience.

    Every touchpoint counts… so let´s start working on them with all our expertise: what do you stand for?

    Karin Glattes, UnternehmenKunde Germany, is an expert on customer experience management supporting companies in various industries in their culture change towards customer centricity. She includes neuroscientific insight and latest results at many stages of her projects. After finishing her studies in Vienna, Austria, her carreer started off in public relations at Burson Marsteller Austria, followed by change management work at accenture as well as TMI.

    She holds key note speaches and together with her team offers idea coaching as well as creativity workshops and experience days for employees to ensure a learning concept by heart instead of techniques and ratio. She believes in a series of german “e”s: Echtheit authenticity, Emotion emotion, Erlebnis experience – Ergebnis result!


  • July 16, 2013 09:54 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    ...They Aren’t Helpless Either.


    Neuromarketing still triggers a fear response in some observers who believe it can somehow produce marketing messages that are so enticing to consumers that they will be literally irresistible. We discuss this concern at length in our new book Neuromarketing for Dummies (N4D), which will be published by Wiley on August 5.
    Much of this fear expressed by critics of neuromarketing seems to be based on the erroneous belief that consumers are weak and passive recipients of marketing messages and, therefore, are easy dupes of wily and clever marketers (and neuromarketers).

    This misunderstanding of consumers comes from a misunderstanding of the brain science that underlies neuromarketing. In fact, research shows that consumers are equipped with highly evolved behavioral guidance systems that make them formidable players in the economic game of buyer versus seller. As we show at length in N4D, consumers are not rational actors as predicted by classic economic and marketing theory, but they are intuitive actors who deploy both conscious and nonconscious impressions, evaluations, and choices to help them navigate the marketplace and make good decisions in an extremely complex and noisy commercial world. Here are some lessons for marketers that emerge from the new Intuitive Consumer Model.

    Some lessons for marketers

    Your consumers’ preferences and decisions are influenced in ways quite different from the direct persuasion model you grew up with. You can’t simply ask them about these influences, because they aren’t aware of them.

    Nonconscious goal pursuit is a major source of consumer behavior. It is counterintuitive to say that people can have goals that they are not aware of, but the science on this point is beyond dispute. Nonconscious goal pursuit is adaptive and flexible. Consumers in pursuit of nonconscious goals are persistent and motivated to succeed, even though they aren’t aware of what they’re doing. If you understand the goals your consumers are pursuing, both consciously and nonconsciously, and connect your product to the satisfaction of those goals, your consumers will find a way to get to your products.

    Consumers have built-in resistance to persuasive messages, even very subtle ones like slogans. This resistance can produce reverse priming effects, which means your hard-earned advertising and marketing dollars may be producing the opposite effect to the one you’re trying to create. You need to understand what messages your marketing is sending, and whether those messages are triggering resistance or the persuasion you are seeking.

    Your advertising functions as a nonconscious prime. Priming is not necessarily logical, so exposure to your advertising may activate goals and reactions you never intended. You need to understand what goals and behaviors your advertising is priming, as well as what goals and behaviors your competitors’ advertising is priming.

    Brands can act as primes and trigger nonconscious goal pursuit. Research has demonstrated, for example, that Apple primes creativity and Disney primes honesty. People respond nonconsciously to brands in difficult to predict ways. You need to understand what goals and behaviors your brands prime, as well as what goals and behaviors your competitors’ brands prime.

    If neuromarketing has one key lesson for marketers, it’s to remind you that you need to respect the intuitive powers of the consumers you want to influence. Consumers are, in fact, not easily fooled and will seek out what’s ultimately good for them, not what’s good for you or your brand. Consumers in modern economies have developed some strong corrective responses and decision-making shortcuts that make persuasive messaging even harder, not easier, to deliver.

    Neuromarketing doesn’t provide a bundle of “cheap tricks” to help marketers take advantage of helpless consumers. It provides a more scientifically grounded way to understand the brains of both marketers and consumers, and with this new information, it holds out the possibility of making marketing more effective for marketers and less intrusive for consumers everywhere.

    Steve Genco is a pioneer in the field of neuromarketing and co-author of Neuromarketing for Dummies (Wiley, 2013). In 2006, he founded one of the first neuromarketing research firms. From 2009 to 2012, he was Chief Innovation Officer at another well-known neuromarketing vendor. He is currently working with Intuitive Consumer Insights, promoting his book and helping clients develop and execute market research programs and business strategies that blend traditional research techniques with the latest advances in neuromarketing. Steve will be a featured speaker at the Neuro Retail Revolution event, Oct 3-4, in Amsterdam.


    download

  • July 09, 2013 09:51 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)
    Neuromarketing is an ideal method for evaluating marketing stimuli, since all commercial communication is ultimately judged in the consumer’s brain. This is also the case for product packaging.

    Neurensics has used neuromarketing to investigate several packaging designs, resulting in a very important insight. The brain reacts much more advantageous to packaging that communicates the brand’s image than packaging that communicates brand-incongruent information. Perhaps it is better to no longer use the term product packaging, and instead introduce the term brand packaging.

    Everyone is familiar with the ritual of doing groceries. You walk into a supermarket, looking for a category of products. Then you find yourself standing in front of a shelf, faced with a multitude of choice. Previous research* has shown that the more options you have, the harder it is to make a decision. The abundance of choice leads to paralysis, as it were. Especially when it comes to products that all look more or less alike, such as marmalade, mayonnaise or lettuce. So how are we, as consumers, able to make a choice between products that are intrinsically almost the same?

    Product packaging can help us in making an optimal decision. It serves as a signal to consumers, enabling the possibility of a quick choice. Hence, to compete with similar products a package design must stand out. However, this difference must be a subtle one, as the design must still adhere to the conventions of the product category. When taking these guidelines into account, what is the best way for a product design to stand out, and promote buying behavior?

    Neurensics used an MRI scanner to find out of certain elements of a product design can make a difference. One of the elements under investigation was text. For example, we studied the text on the product design of deodorant brand Axe, to discover how word choice can increase a consumer’s buying intention.

    brand packaging

    While the original Axe deodorant design has no text, we put two words on the product packaging: 'seductive', which has a relationship with Axe’s brand image, and 'powerful', which is related to the product. Unlike popular notion that copy on the packaging does not matter, Neurensics saw an increase in brain activation in regions that are important in determining purchase intention, when the word 'seductive' was used. In other words, a text that refers to a brand value of Axe is significantly more effective than a text that refers to a product value.

    It seems, therefore, that product packaging that communicates a brand’s image can help persuade a consumer to choose that brand. Neuroscientific research by Deppe and his colleagues** has shown how this brand induced process works in our brain. A brand is used as a shortcut, a somatic marker, that can be used to make an automatic and effortless choice. When consumers choose between brands, and one of the options is a consumer’s favorite brand then the choice process becomes quick and emotional. In fact, areas in the brain which are responsible for making rational decisions are deactivated by the sight of the consumer’s favorite brand.

    The stronger the brand’s image is communicated, the faster the consumer is persuaded to buy the brand. Marketers would therefore do well in dropping the term product packaging to introduce the concept of brand packaging. This could potentially save a great deal of time and decision avoidance, the next time we do our groceries.

    *Iyengar, S. S., & Lepper, M. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 995-1006. (2000)

    **Deppe, Schwindt, Kugel, Plassmann and Kenning. Nonlinear responses within the medial prefrontal cortex reveal when specific implicit information influences economic decision making. J Neuroimaging. Vol. 15(2):171-82. (2005)

    As a founding partner at Neurensics, Europe’s first neuro-economic research firm, Walter Limpens contributes daily to the practical applicability of neuromarketing. Neurensics uses fMRI techniques to ‘peek’ directly into the living brain of consumers, mapping out important subconscious thoughts.


  • July 02, 2013 09:48 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    By Anil Pillai

    Stress

    Way back in 1932, to  Hans Selier, an Austrian physician goes the credit for coming with the term “stress” ( a term he apparently  borrowed from metallurgy ) to mean  the response system in animals which saves your life if it lasts very briefly, and makes you very sick if it goes on for too long.

    Sapolsky makes an interesting connect

    And to Robert Sapolsky (Why Zebras don’t get Ulcers) goes the credit of taking the concept of “stress” and enlarging our understanding on this very interesting, but  yet tough to understand phenomena.

    Sapolsky in an experiment of his, discovered that if one were to give a mild electric shock to a rat, the rat would exhibit signs of stress such as an elevated heart rate in the short term, which then  had the propensity to develop into stomach ulcers, should the rat be continually subjected to  stress.

    Now take another rat and subject it to the same electric shock, but this time allow the rat to gnaw on a piece of wood after the shock was administered.

    Interestingly  Sapolsky discovered that the rat given this choice of gnawing on the wood, thereby releasing the stress had much lower probability to developing ulcers. This rat had an outlet for the stress.

    Now he tweaked this still further, if a rat could be trained to anticipate the electric shock prior to receiving the shock( which he did in his lab), that is , if it knew what to expect on a consistent basis, what would happen, he wondered. This rat too had a lower probability to developing  stress induced ulcers. Eliminating uncertainty had reduced stress levels!

    In a third experiment, Sapolsky trained the rat to press a lever and thus reduce the likelihood of an  electric shock and having tested this scenario, then disconnected the lever which again resulted an increase in likelihood  for the electric shocks. In both these cases the rat had lower stress levels and a lower probability of stress induced ulcers. A sense of control (whether or not real), was enough to  de-stress the rat.

    Impact on Customer Centric thinking?

    As professionals who advocate and practice caring for customers, what does this teach us? What we always perhaps knew intuitively. If we want our customers to be happy (as opposed to being stressed out), three important things matter

    Ensure that customers know what to expect on a consistent basis. Customers do not like dealing with uncertainty.  No shock and awe here. They do not like getting their socks knocked off on one interaction, only to find the next one, gratingly substandard or even average.  They prefer and stay loyal to organizations that do not have wide variations in their offerings and their service.

    Think of the elevated heart beat (and the stress) that you went through whenever you had to face uncertain situations or had insufficient information that lead to uncertainty. You hated it, didn’t you?

    Think of those anxiety driven moments and now think how many times do you put your customers through this.

    An outlet for stress.

    This is so true. Customers love having an outlet to let off their steam . This need is naturally hard wired into our systems. Every day life offers umpteen examples, you are angry with your kid for having spilt coffee on your shirt at breakfast. You know it is irrational to take your anger out on your toddler.

    But the hard wiring (not to mention the physiological changes , like the sudden adrenaline surplus, the elevated heartbeat that knock off your homeostatic control) makes it tough, so you take it out on the traffic, your car poolers, your assistant at work! Then when you have done blowing steam, reason sets in and you wonder what set you off!

    The angrier customers are, the more easier it should be for them to vent their feelings and be heard ( Really heard, not just “pretend-heard”). Customers know that organizations like people will make mistakes, will falter. And when that happens and the customer suffers as a consequence, they want to share all that they feel. Most of this feedback is pretty valuable and spot on.

    Put the customer in control of her interaction with you. Facilitate the interaction with the organization in such a manner that the customer is able to predict the outcome to a fair degree of certainty and if not satisfied is free to terminate that interaction, no questions asked.

    Think of the number of times you wanted to reach out to a decision maker to either seek resolution on a complaint or for enhanced service only to be stonewalled by call centers and myriad technology barriers. Cede control. Managing customers is not a zero sum game.

    Oh and of course if one were to continually ignore “customer interaction stress points” you would end up with a very “sick” organization, just as Selier and Sapolsky defined it for biological beings! 

    Anil Pillai

    Spanning a professional career of two decades , Anil Pillai, co- founder ofTerragni Consulting, is an experienced Customer Professional. He is one of the pioneers in India in the areas of Data Analytics and Customer Experience. Anil has a Masters in Business from LaTrobe University, Australia , specializing in Consumer Psychology and Customer Strategy. He is also a certified  Micro Expressions  Expert and Brain Coach. He is one of the individual founder members of CXPA, a global body of  Customer Experience Professionals.  His academic career includes serving as a  Consulting Professor of Marketing Strategy at the Symbiosis International University.


    Stress
    Way back in 1932, to  Hans Selier, an Austrian physician goes the credit for coming with the term “stress” ( a term he apparently  borrowed from metallurgy ) to mean  the response system in animals which saves your life if it lasts very briefly, and makes you very sick if it goes on for too long.

    Sapolsky makes an interesting connect
    And to Robert Sapolsky (Why Zebras don’t get Ulcers) goes the credit of taking the concept of “stress” and enlarging our understanding on this very interesting, but  yet tough to understand phenomena.

    Sapolsky in an experiment of his, discovered that if one were to give a mild electric shock to a rat, the rat would exhibit signs of stress such as an elevated heart rate in the short term, which then  had the propensity to develop into stomach ulcers, should the rat be continually subjected to  stress.

    Now take another rat and subject it to the same electric shock, but this time allow the rat to gnaw on a piece of wood after the shock was administered.

    Interestingly  Sapolsky discovered that the rat given this choice of gnawing on the wood, thereby releasing the stress had much lower probability to developing ulcers. This rat had an outlet for the stress.

    Now he tweaked this still further, if a rat could be trained to anticipate the electric shock prior to receiving the shock( which he did in his lab), that is , if it knew what to expect on a consistent basis, what would happen, he wondered. This rat too had a lower probability to developing  stress induced ulcers. Eliminating uncertainty had reduced stress levels!

    In a third experiment, Sapolsky trained the rat to press a lever and thus reduce the likelihood of an  electric shock and having tested this scenario, then disconnected the lever which again resulted an increase in likelihood  for the electric shocks. In both these cases the rat had lower stress levels and a lower probability of stress induced ulcers. A sense of control (whether or not real), was enough to  de-stress the rat.

    Impact on Customer Centric thinking?                                                                 
    As professionals who advocate and practice caring for customers, what does this teach us? What we always perhaps knew intuitively. If we want our customers to be happy (as opposed to being stressed out), three important things matter

    Ensure that customers know what to expect on a consistent basis. Customers do not like dealing with uncertainty.  No shock and awe here. They do not like getting their socks knocked off on one interaction, only to find the next one, gratingly substandard or even average.  They prefer and stay loyal to organizations that do not have wide variations in their offerings and their service.

    Think of the elevated heart beat (and the stress) that you went through whenever you had to face uncertain situations or had insufficient information that lead to uncertainty. You hated it, didn’t you?

    Think of those anxiety driven moments and now think how many times do you put your customers through this.

    An outlet for stress.
    This is so true. Customers love having an outlet to let off their steam . This need is naturally hard wired into our systems. Every day life offers umpteen examples, you are angry with your kid for having spilt coffee on your shirt at breakfast. You know it is irrational to take your anger out on your toddler.

    But the hard wiring (not to mention the physiological changes , like the sudden adrenaline surplus, the elevated heartbeat that knock off your homeostatic control) makes it tough, so you take it out on the traffic, your car poolers, your assistant at work! Then when you have done blowing steam, reason sets in and you wonder what set you off!

    The angrier customers are, the more easier it should be for them to vent their feelings and be heard ( Really heard, not just “pretend-heard”). Customers know that organizations like people will make mistakes, will falter. And when that happens and the customer suffers as a consequence, they want to share all that they feel. Most of this feedback is pretty valuable and spot on.

    Put the customer in control of her interaction with you. Facilitate the interaction with the organization in such a manner that the customer is able to predict the outcome to a fair degree of certainty and if not satisfied is free to terminate that interaction, no questions asked.

    Think of the number of times you wanted to reach out to a decision maker to either seek resolution on a complaint or for enhanced service only to be stonewalled by call centers and myriad technology barriers. Cede control. Managing customers is not a zero sum game.

    Oh and of course if one were to continually ignore “customer interaction stress points” you would end up with a very “sick” organization, just as Selier and Sapolsky defined it for biological beings! 

    Spanning a professional career of two decades , Anil Pillai, co- founder ofTerragni Consulting, is an experienced Customer Professional. He is one of the pioneers in India in the areas of Data Analytics and Customer Experience. Anil has a Masters in Business from LaTrobe University, Australia , specializing in Consumer Psychology and Customer Strategy. He is also a certified  Micro Expressions  Expert and Brain Coach. He is one of the individual founder members of CXPA, a global body of  Customer Experience Professionals.  His academic career includes serving as a  Consulting Professor of Marketing Strategy at the Symbiosis International University.

    Stress
    Way back in 1932, to  Hans Selier, an Austrian physician goes the credit for coming with the term “stress” ( a term he apparently  borrowed from metallurgy ) to mean  the response system in animals which saves your life if it lasts very briefly, and makes you very sick if it goes on for too long.

    Sapolsky makes an interesting connect
    And to Robert Sapolsky (Why Zebras don’t get Ulcers) goes the credit of taking the concept of “stress” and enlarging our understanding on this very interesting, but  yet tough to understand phenomena.

    Sapolsky in an experiment of his, discovered that if one were to give a mild electric shock to a rat, the rat would exhibit signs of stress such as an elevated heart rate in the short term, which then  had the propensity to develop into stomach ulcers, should the rat be continually subjected to  stress.

    Now take another rat and subject it to the same electric shock, but this time allow the rat to gnaw on a piece of wood after the shock was administered.

    Interestingly  Sapolsky discovered that the rat given this choice of gnawing on the wood, thereby releasing the stress had much lower probability to developing ulcers. This rat had an outlet for the stress.

    Now he tweaked this still further, if a rat could be trained to anticipate the electric shock prior to receiving the shock( which he did in his lab), that is , if it knew what to expect on a consistent basis, what would happen, he wondered. This rat too had a lower probability to developing  stress induced ulcers. Eliminating uncertainty had reduced stress levels!

    In a third experiment, Sapolsky trained the rat to press a lever and thus reduce the likelihood of an  electric shock and having tested this scenario, then disconnected the lever which again resulted an increase in likelihood  for the electric shocks. In both these cases the rat had lower stress levels and a lower probability of stress induced ulcers. A sense of control (whether or not real), was enough to  de-stress the rat.

    Impact on Customer Centric thinking?                                                                 
    As professionals who advocate and practice caring for customers, what does this teach us? What we always perhaps knew intuitively. If we want our customers to be happy (as opposed to being stressed out), three important things matter

    Ensure that customers know what to expect on a consistent basis. Customers do not like dealing with uncertainty.  No shock and awe here. They do not like getting their socks knocked off on one interaction, only to find the next one, gratingly substandard or even average.  They prefer and stay loyal to organizations that do not have wide variations in their offerings and their service.

    Think of the elevated heart beat (and the stress) that you went through whenever you had to face uncertain situations or had insufficient information that lead to uncertainty. You hated it, didn’t you?

    Think of those anxiety driven moments and now think how many times do you put your customers through this.

    An outlet for stress.
    This is so true. Customers love having an outlet to let off their steam . This need is naturally hard wired into our systems. Every day life offers umpteen examples, you are angry with your kid for having spilt coffee on your shirt at breakfast. You know it is irrational to take your anger out on your toddler.

    But the hard wiring (not to mention the physiological changes , like the sudden adrenaline surplus, the elevated heartbeat that knock off your homeostatic control) makes it tough, so you take it out on the traffic, your car poolers, your assistant at work! Then when you have done blowing steam, reason sets in and you wonder what set you off!

    The angrier customers are, the more easier it should be for them to vent their feelings and be heard ( Really heard, not just “pretend-heard”). Customers know that organizations like people will make mistakes, will falter. And when that happens and the customer suffers as a consequence, they want to share all that they feel. Most of this feedback is pretty valuable and spot on.

    Put the customer in control of her interaction with you. Facilitate the interaction with the organization in such a manner that the customer is able to predict the outcome to a fair degree of certainty and if not satisfied is free to terminate that interaction, no questions asked.

    Think of the number of times you wanted to reach out to a decision maker to either seek resolution on a complaint or for enhanced service only to be stonewalled by call centers and myriad technology barriers. Cede control. Managing customers is not a zero sum game.

    Oh and of course if one were to continually ignore “customer interaction stress points” you would end up with a very “sick” organization, just as Selier and Sapolsky defined it for biological beings! 

    Spanning a professional career of two decades , Anil Pillai, co- founder ofTerragni Consulting, is an experienced Customer Professional. He is one of the pioneers in India in the areas of Data Analytics and Customer Experience. Anil has a Masters in Business from LaTrobe University, Australia , specializing in Consumer Psychology and Customer Strategy. He is also a certified  Micro Expressions  Expert and Brain Coach. He is one of the individual founder members of CXPA, a global body of  Customer Experience Professionals.  His academic career includes serving as a  Consulting Professor of Marketing Strategy at the Symbiosis International University.

  • June 25, 2013 09:34 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    Do you sometimes find yourself heading to the shops for one item and leaving with a boot full of shopping bags? Do you spot a store and get somehow magically drawn in and end up buying 10 things you never thought you would need?

    Or, the other way round, do you set out for some retail therapy but get turned away, because it just doesn’t feel right, doesn’t feel inspiring?

    The crossover of neuromarketing and retail provides opportunity to better understand the underlying subconscious mechanisms that determine whether and why we engage in a certain retail experience – or why not.  As one shopper indulges in a proper spending spree with a certain retailer another shoppers brain (and credit card!) escape on a short holiday.

    What really determines consumers attraction and engagement in retail
    As neurosciences suggest, human and therefore consumer decision making takes place largely below the radar of the conscious mind. Every stimuli (advertisement, promotion, retail experience, product, brand) gets evaluated subconsciously and filtered through the emotional operating system in the consumer’s brain. Then we determine what is noise and what is relevant, what we perceive at all, what we recall and what motivates a certain action. This emotional operating system consists of three major forces, which Neuromarketing expert and author Dr. Haeusel describes as ‘The Big 3’. They are:

    ·        The Balance system (goal and purpose: security, avoidance of risk, stability)

    ·        The Dominance system (goal and purpose: self-assertion, displacement of the competition, autonomy)

    ·        The Stimulance system (goal and purpose: discovery of new things, learning new skills)

    Recognising the wishes of the 3 emotion systems of Balance, Dominance and Stimulance is crucial. Why? Because these 3 systems cause completely different shopper expectations in terms of store experience, visual merchandise and even pricing strategies.
    Let’s explore four types of shopping experiences that can be clearly aligned with ‘The Big Three,’ easy, experiential and exclusive shopping.

    Easy Shopping
    Let’s start with the Balance system and its needs and wishes when shopping. Safety, no stress, order, easiness and convenience. Simply put, the Balance system seeks a shopping experience which is as easy and comforting as possible. Visual merchandising and store layouts that are functional and straightforward with easy navigation and quick orientation are preferred. Products should be simple, reliable quality at a predictable, constantly low price point (every day low price strategy as opposed to aggressive, temporary discounting). Too many options have an unsettling effect on the Balance system – it wants limited choice.

    A well executed example is provided by Aldi. The very narrow product range within each category, functional store design and visual merchandise, strictly controlled and absolutely constant product quality, everyday low prices. Aldi’s core market? Customers with an emphasis on the Balance system in their brains. 

    Experiential Shopping
    Exactly the opposite are the expectations of shoppers who are predominantly driven by the Stimulance system. The Stimulance system is attracted to indulgence and experience oriented visual merchandise, such as tasting stations and distinct zones, they seek “experiential shopping”. Choice and variety can’t be big enough and whilst the Balance system is satisfied with home brands, the Stimulance system prefers manufacturer brands with a strong emphasis on lifestyle, pleasure and experience. The Australian retailer Peter Alexander is an example of a retailer that attracts the Stimulance driven personality types called Open-minded and Hedonists, as tested in the Australian Retail Consumer Study 2012, conducted by RDG Insights.

     

    peter2

    hugo boss







    Exclusive Shopping

    Exclusive shopping, again, originates in the Dominance system. Particularly when it comes to products that have a high socially distinctive function – like fashion, cars or living & furniture – the Dominance system seeks status and exclusivity. This is then exactly how products need to be displayed in retail: exclusive ambience, ranges of the highest quality product, and very importantly, personalised service.

    Hugo Boss provides an excellent example of executing this proposition right down to the smallest, even subconscious, details. When we look at the flagship store in meatpacking district of New York, we find scarce product, tall racking (subconsciously triggering the emotion of having to climb up to reach the product), exclusive materials, subdued lighting, club appeal.

     hb index

    hugo

    All of the above are quite contrary emotional worlds in shoppers minds. So, how can retail respond to this? The answer lies is relating these emotional worlds at the point of sale to the target markets that correspond, and then executing to these propositions. This achieves a relevant retail offer that will draw the right customers into stores, resonate with them and create profitable and loyal relationships. 

    katharina speakingKatharina Kuehn is Director of RDG Insights, who specialise in providing retailers and brands with neuromarketing insights and their application to strategic branding and the point of sale. Katharina is a specialist practitioner of Limbic®, one of the most recognised and scientifically best established  behaviour & emotions models for the retail and consumer goods industry worldwide. Katharina consults, presents, writes and interviews regularly on the topic of neuromarketing in retail. 

  • June 18, 2013 13:20 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    The homepage of Sands Research’ website shows a large photograph of a girl shopping. She is wearing a hat disguising what she is wearing on her head and a striking pair of goggles. This project is their latest research showcase, a broad in-depth supermarket study of consumer behavior all over the United States. The project was realized on commission of POPAI, the global association for marketing at retail. To realize this project, Sands had to overcome certain technical difficulties. As often in neuroresearch, the results revealed amazing insights.

    by Mirjam Broekhof

    Shopper Marketing

    Neuroresearch is usually conducted in a controlled environment, such as a classroom or laboratory. The reason for this is obvious: research subjects have to wear a bathing cap full of electrodes and wear special goggles at the same time. These instruments provide millions of bits of reporting on eye movements and the electrical responses of the brain. Research in supermarkets requires facilities that can be used in a live-environment. The solution shown in the photograph worked, says Stephen Sands. “At the onset of their stroll along the aisles, most of research subjects suffered from anxiety. ‘Everybody is staring at me’; ‘These goggles make me look like a Borg’. However, they soon noticed that no one actually looked at them or their equipment. Adults took a brief glance and then assumed that the subject was probably visually handicapped. Children would sometimes take a longer stare, but did not ask questions or make loud remarks. When shopping, most people are remarkably unaware of their environment as they are highly focused on picking their goods. Consequently, the subjects’ anxiety levels usually dropped as they turned the first corner, and disappeared entirely within 15 minutes. By that time respondents were very much at ease. In fact, to such an extent that they performed certain tasks that are usually avoided when wearing an instrument that records every move. A few examples include nose-picking and going to the toilet. We registered events like these several times unintentionally!”

    New Insights into Shopping Behavior In 2011

    RSI implemented the Shopper Engagement Study. The central aim of this research project was to provide more insight on impulse buying behavior and the effect of displays. It also revealed completely new information on customer behavior in supermarkets. Stephen Sands told me that he already knew that shoppers fail to buy the things they intended to buy when entering a supermarket. “We performed sophisticated research projects on this subject. Each revealed that 70% of the products in the shopping cart actually differed from those products indicated by the consumer when entering the supermarket. This is an astonishingly high figure. Our study strongly suggests that this is a result of the way the brain works. A person who is shopping is highly focused. She - the majority of daily shopping is done by women - is steering the cart purposefully towards products and brands. Surprisingly, the shopper is also actively exploring the in-store environment, shelves and packaging. We found that 82% of the eye movements that explore products are going to products that are not the actual product being sought. A lot of attention is given to other brands and products in the same category. This means that only 18% of the eye activity is aimed at the actual product that is really being purchased.”

    0.2 Second Decisions

    Neuroresearch shows that information about products and brands is processed in short chunks. Each evaluation takes 200 milliseconds. During this time span the product is evaluated and a decision (to buy or not to buy) is made. The first eye movement-evoked response is decisive. These outcomes are highly relevant for the companies that produce consumer goods. A practical inclination is that they should not radically alter packaging too often or too frequently. Package is essential to consumer behavior. Consumers focus on a certain brand image and package design. If the consumer does not perceive the expected product, more time will be spent exploring the different possibilities in this product category. A profound change in the appearance of products is a standing invitation to buy rival products. Coca-Cola demonstrated this with excellent proof with their recent Christmas Coke special offer. People were upset and confused because they failed to recognize the white package as their favorite red product. This fact is, by the way, perfectly understood by the automobile industry. They entice us by showing exciting new models, but in reality the exterior of their cars only changes in very subtle ways- little by little, year by year. That is a commercially effective response to the consumer’s brain. In the Shopper Engagement Study it was also observed that consumers perceive supermarkets as a part of their social environment. In the United States especially, supermarkets - not big box stores – act as a hub for the entire community. The local restaurant and coffee bar is a meeting point for friends, elderly people and other locals. There is a strong tendency for supermarkets to be cheap and sterile. In a study in Israel, the contrary was found to apply. A store that invested in lots of space, created a pleasant experience, socializing opportunities and quality foods realized very good results even though it took some time to build a circle of customers who were all very loyal and willing to pay a slightly higher price to enjoy shopping instead of seeing the experience as an ordeal.

    Resistance

    Many people demonstrate an aversion towards neuroscientific research and are not positively inclined towards the results. Sands confirms this and illustrates why this is quite easy to explain. “We humans like to think of ourselves as intellectual, logical beings. The fact that we use associations and pictures to take decisions is contrary to that idea. Neuroresearch also shows more illogical behavior. An example: nutritional information on product is rarely red. Consumers also pay scant attention to price information. In contrast, we found that people find it very rewarding to buy ‘not so healthy-foods’ such as sweets, candy, ice-cream and alcohol. Illogically, they spend little time in these categories. Decision making is rapid. Far more time is spent buying less exciting products, such as groceries and milk.”

    “Another reason why people find it hard to believe their own behavior is the fact that consumers do not act the way they verbally intend to. In a study on sunscreen we showed our subjects a trailer of advertisements. Shortly after showing this we asked them to indicate in a questionnaire which products they intended to buy. Of course the research subject, this sunscreen, was not obvious among the other products. At the moment of seeing the trailer we also recorded the brain’s responses. A week later we ran an unannounced questionnaire on products that had been purchased in the last week. We asked our respondents to check their receipts and shelves. Our research showed 0.7 correlation (r) between brain response and actual shopping behavior. In contrast, the correlation between stated intention and buying was a meager 0.2, which is close to no relation at all. People find it hard to believe and unpleasant to face the fact that they have so little knowledge of their own behavior. It seems as if we hardly know ourselves.”

    (article originally published in Neuromarketing Theory & Practice)

    Stephen SandsOver the past 25 years Dr. Stephen Sands has been instrumental in introducing many innovations. He is one of the founders of Sands Research and become a pioneer in applying cognitive neuroscience technology for unique insight into television and print advertisements, shopper behavior, product packaging and product design. Dr. Sands earned his MA and PhD in Biomedical Sciences at The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Houston, Texas. His academic career includes serving as a consultant to Brain Potential Imaging Laboratory at the Harvard Medical School. Dr. Stephen Sands is one of the keynote speakers of the Neuromarketing in Retail Conference 2013 in Amsterdam.

    Neuroresearch is usually conducted in a controlled environment, such as a classroom or laboratory. The reason for this is obvious: research subjects have to wear a bathing cap full of electrodes and wear special goggles at the same time. These instruments provide millions of bits of reporting on eye movements and the electrical responses of the brain. Research in supermarkets requires facilities that can be used in a live-environment. The solution shown in the photograph worked, says Stephen Sands. “At the onset of their stroll along the aisles, most of research subjects suffered from anxiety. ‘Everybody is staring at me’; ‘These goggles make me look like a Borg’. However, they soon noticed that no one actually looked at them or their equipment. Adults took a brief glance and then assumed that the subject was probably visually handicapped. Children would sometimes take a longer stare, but did not ask questions or make loud remarks. When shopping, most people are remarkably unaware of their environment as they are highly focused on picking their goods. Consequently, the subjects’ anxiety levels usually dropped as they turned the first corner, and disappeared entirely within 15 minutes. By that time respondents were very much at ease. In fact, to such an extent that they performed certain tasks that are usually avoided when wearing an instrument that records every move. A few examples include nose-picking and going to the toilet. We registered events like these several times unintentionally!”

    New Insights into Shopping Behavior In 2011

    RSI implemented the Shopper Engagement Study. The central aim of this research project was to provide more insight on impulse buying behavior and the effect of displays. It also revealed completely new information on customer behavior in supermarkets. Stephen Sands told me that he already knew that shoppers fail to buy the things they intended to buy when entering a supermarket. “We performed sophisticated research projects on this subject. Each revealed that 70% of the products in the shopping cart actually differed from those products indicated by the consumer when entering the supermarket. This is an astonishingly high figure. Our study strongly suggests that this is a result of the way the brain works. A person who is shopping is highly focused. She - the majority of  daily shopping is done by women - is steering the cart purposefully towards products and brands. Surprisingly, the shopper is also actively exploring the in-store environment, shelves and packaging. We found that 82% of the eye movements that explore products are going to products that are not the actual product being sought. A lot of attention is given to other brands and products in the same category. This means that only 18% of the eye activity is aimed at the actual product that is really being purchased.”

    0.2 Second Decisions

    Neuroresearch shows that information about products and brands is processed in short chunks. Each evaluation takes 200 milliseconds. During this time span the product is evaluated and a decision (to buy or not to buy) is made. The first eye movement-evoked response is decisive. These outcomes are highly relevant for the companies that produce consumer goods. A practical inclination is that they should not radically alter packaging too often or too frequently. Package is essential to consumer behavior. Consumers focus on a certain brand image and package design. If the consumer does not perceive the expected product, more time will be spent exploring the different possibilities in this product category. A profound change in the appearance of products is a standing invitation to buy rival products. Coca-Cola demonstrated this with excellent proof with their recent Christmas Coke special offer. People were upset and confused because they failed to recognize the white package as their favorite red product. This fact is, by the way, perfectly understood by the automobile industry. They entice us by showing exciting new models, but in reality the exterior of their cars only changes in very subtle ways- little by little, year by year. That is a commercially effective response to the consumer’s brain. In the Shopper Engagement Study it was also observed that consumers perceive supermarkets as a part of their social environment. In the United States especially, supermarkets - not big box stores – act as a hub for the entire community. The local restaurant and coffee bar is a meeting point for friends, elderly people and other locals. There is a strong tendency for supermarkets to be cheap and sterile. In a study in Israel, the contrary was found to apply. A store that invested in lots of space, created a pleasant experience, socializing opportunities and quality foods realized very good results even though it took some time to build a circle of customers who were all very loyal and willing to pay a slightly higher price to enjoy shopping instead of seeing the experience as an ordeal. 

    Resistance

    Many people demonstrate an aversion towards neuroscientific research and are not positively inclined towards the results. Sands confirms this and illustrates why this is quite easy to explain. “We humans like to think of ourselves as intellectual, logical beings. The fact that we use associations and pictures to take decisions is contrary to that idea. Neuroresearch also shows more illogical behavior. An example: nutritional information on product is rarely red. Consumers also pay scant attention to price information. In contrast, we found that people find it very rewarding to buy ‘not so healthy-foods’ such as sweets, candy, ice-cream and alcohol. Illogically, they spend little time in these categories. Decision making is rapid. Far more time is spent buying less exciting products, such as groceries and milk.” 

    “Another reason why people find it hard to believe their own behavior is the fact that consumers do not act the way they verbally intend to. In a study on sunscreen we showed our subjects a trailer of advertisements. Shortly after showing this we asked them to indicate in a questionnaire which products they intended to buy. Of course the research subject, this sunscreen, was not obvious among the other products. At the moment of seeing the trailer we also recorded the brain’s responses. A week later we ran an unannounced questionnaire on products that had been purchased in the last week. We asked our respondents to check their receipts and shelves. Our research showed 0.7 correlation (r) between brain response and actual shopping behavior. In contrast, the correlation between stated intention and buying was a meager 0.2, which is close to no relation at all. People find it hard to believe and unpleasant to face the fact that they have so little knowledge of their own behavior. It seems as if we hardly know ourselves.” 
    (article originally published in Neuromarketing Theory & Practice)

    Over the past 25 years Dr. Stephen Sands has been instrumental in introducing many innovations. He is one of the founders of Sands Research and become a pioneer in applying cognitive neuroscience technology for unique insight into television and print advertisements, shopper behavior, product packaging and product design. Dr. Sands earned his MA and PhD in Biomedical Sciences at The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Houston, Texas. His academic career includes serving as a consultant to Brain Potential Imaging Laboratory at the Harvard Medical School. Dr. Stephen Sands is one of the keynote speakers of the Neuro Retail Revolution 2013 in Amserdam.

    Stephen Sands Makes In-store Measurement

    by Mirjam Broekhoff

    The homepage of Stephen Sands’ website shows a large photograph of a girl shopping. She is wearing a hat disguising what she is wearing on her head and a striking pair of goggles. This project is their latest research showcase, a broad in-depth supermarket study of consumer behavior all over the United States. The project was realized on commission of POPAI, the global association for marketing at retail. To realize this project, Sands had to overcome certain technical difficulties. As often in neuroresearch, the results revealed amazing insights. 

    Neuroresearch is usually conducted in a controlled environment, such as a classroom or laboratory. The reason for this is obvious: research subjects have to wear a bathing cap full of electrodes and wear special goggles at the same time. These instruments provide millions of bits of reporting on eye movements and the electrical responses of the brain. Research in supermarkets requires facilities that can be used in a live-environment. The solution shown in the photograph worked, says Stephen Sands. “At the onset of their stroll along the aisles, most of research subjects suffered from anxiety. ‘Everybody is staring at me’; ‘These goggles make me look like a Borg’. However, they soon noticed that no one actually looked at them or their equipment. Adults took a brief glance and then assumed that the subject was probably visually handicapped. Children would sometimes take a longer stare, but did not ask questions or make loud remarks. When shopping, most people are remarkably unaware of their environment as they are highly focused on picking their goods. Consequently, the subjects’ anxiety levels usually dropped as they turned the first corner, and disappeared entirely within 15 minutes. By that time respondents were very much at ease. In fact, to such an extent that they performed certain tasks that are usually avoided when wearing an instrument that records every move. A few examples include nose-picking and going to the toilet. We registered events like these several times unintentionally!”

    New Insights into Shopping Behavior In 2011

    RSI implemented the Shopper Engagement Study. The central aim of this research project was to provide more insight on impulse buying behavior and the effect of displays. It also revealed completely new information on customer behavior in supermarkets. Stephen Sands told me that he already knew that shoppers fail to buy the things they intended to buy when entering a supermarket. “We performed sophisticated research projects on this subject. Each revealed that 70% of the products in the shopping cart actually differed from those products indicated by the consumer when entering the supermarket. This is an astonishingly high figure. Our study strongly suggests that this is a result of the way the brain works. A person who is shopping is highly focused. She - the majority of  daily shopping is done by women - is steering the cart purposefully towards products and brands. Surprisingly, the shopper is also actively exploring the in-store environment, shelves and packaging. We found that 82% of the eye movements that explore products are going to products that are not the actual product being sought. A lot of attention is given to other brands and products in the same category. This means that only 18% of the eye activity is aimed at the actual product that is really being purchased.”

    0.2 Second Decisions

    Neuroresearch shows that information about products and brands is processed in short chunks. Each evaluation takes 200 milliseconds. During this time span the product is evaluated and a decision (to buy or not to buy) is made. The first eye movement-evoked response is decisive. These outcomes are highly relevant for the companies that produce consumer goods. A practical inclination is that they should not radically alter packaging too often or too frequently. Package is essential to consumer behavior. Consumers focus on a certain brand image and package design. If the consumer does not perceive the expected product, more time will be spent exploring the different possibilities in this product category. A profound change in the appearance of products is a standing invitation to buy rival products. Coca-Cola demonstrated this with excellent proof with their recent Christmas Coke special offer. People were upset and confused because they failed to recognize the white package as their favorite red product. This fact is, by the way, perfectly understood by the automobile industry. They entice us by showing exciting new models, but in reality the exterior of their cars only changes in very subtle ways- little by little, year by year. That is a commercially effective response to the consumer’s brain. In the Shopper Engagement Study it was also observed that consumers perceive supermarkets as a part of their social environment. In the United States especially, supermarkets - not big box stores – act as a hub for the entire community. The local restaurant and coffee bar is a meeting point for friends, elderly people and other locals. There is a strong tendency for supermarkets to be cheap and sterile. In a study in Israel, the contrary was found to apply. A store that invested in lots of space, created a pleasant experience, socializing opportunities and quality foods realized very good results even though it took some time to build a circle of customers who were all very loyal and willing to pay a slightly higher price to enjoy shopping instead of seeing the experience as an ordeal. 

    Resistance

    Many people demonstrate an aversion towards neuroscientific research and are not positively inclined towards the results. Sands confirms this and illustrates why this is quite easy to explain. “We humans like to think of ourselves as intellectual, logical beings. The fact that we use associations and pictures to take decisions is contrary to that idea. Neuroresearch also shows more illogical behavior. An example: nutritional information on product is rarely red. Consumers also pay scant attention to price information. In contrast, we found that people find it very rewarding to buy ‘not so healthy-foods’ such as sweets, candy, ice-cream and alcohol. Illogically, they spend little time in these categories. Decision making is rapid. Far more time is spent buying less exciting products, such as groceries and milk.” 

    “Another reason why people find it hard to believe their own behavior is the fact that consumers do not act the way they verbally intend to. In a study on sunscreen we showed our subjects a trailer of advertisements. Shortly after showing this we asked them to indicate in a questionnaire which products they intended to buy. Of course the research subject, this sunscreen, was not obvious among the other products. At the moment of seeing the trailer we also recorded the brain’s responses. A week later we ran an unannounced questionnaire on products that had been purchased in the last week. We asked our respondents to check their receipts and shelves. Our research showed 0.7 correlation (r) between brain response and actual shopping behavior. In contrast, the correlation between stated intention and buying was a meager 0.2, which is close to no relation at all. People find it hard to believe and unpleasant to face the fact that they have so little knowledge of their own behavior. It seems as if we hardly know ourselves.” 

    (Article originally published in Neuromarketing Theory & Practice)

    The homepage of Stephen Sands’ website shows a large photograph of a girl shopping. She is wearing a hat disguising what she is wearing on her head and a striking pair of goggles. This project is their latest research showcase, a broad in-depth supermarket study of consumer behavior all over the United States. The project was realized on commission of POPAI, the global association for marketing at retail. To realize this project, Sands had to overcome certain technical difficulties. As often in neuroresearch, the results revealed amazing insights. 
    Neuroresearch is usually conducted in a controlled environment, such as a classroom or laboratory. The reason for this is obvious: research subjects have to wear a bathing cap full of electrodes and wear special goggles at the same time. These instruments provide millions of bits of reporting on eye movements and the electrical responses of the brain. Research in supermarkets requires facilities that can be used in a live-environment. The solution shown in the photograph worked, says Stephen Sands. “At the onset of their stroll along the aisles, most of research subjects suffered from anxiety. ‘Everybody is staring at me’; ‘These goggles make me look like a Borg’. However, they soon noticed that no one actually looked at them or their equipment. Adults took a brief glance and then assumed that the subject was probably visually handicapped. Children would sometimes take a longer stare, but did not ask questions or make loud remarks. When shopping, most people are remarkably unaware of their environment as they are highly focused on picking their goods. Consequently, the subjects’ anxiety levels usually dropped as they turned the first corner, and disappeared entirely within 15 minutes. By that time respondents were very much at ease. In fact, to such an extent that they performed certain tasks that are usually avoided when wearing an instrument that records every move. A few examples include nose-picking and going to the toilet. We registered events like these several times unintentionally!”

    New Insights into Shopping Behavior In 2011

    RSI implemented the Shopper Engagement Study. The central aim of this research project was to provide more insight on impulse buying behavior and the effect of displays. It also revealed completely new information on customer behavior in supermarkets. Stephen Sands told me that he already knew that shoppers fail to buy the things they intended to buy when entering a supermarket. “We performed sophisticated research projects on this subject. Each revealed that 70% of the products in the shopping cart actually differed from those products indicated by the consumer when entering the supermarket. This is an astonishingly high figure. Our study strongly suggests that this is a result of the way the brain works. A person who is shopping is highly focused. She - the majority of  daily shopping is done by women - is steering the cart purposefully towards products and brands. Surprisingly, the shopper is also actively exploring the in-store environment, shelves and packaging. We found that 82% of the eye movements that explore products are going to products that are not the actual product being sought. A lot of attention is given to other brands and products in the same category. This means that only 18% of the eye activity is aimed at the actual product that is really being purchased.”

    0.2 Second Decisions

    Neuroresearch shows that information about products and brands is processed in short chunks. Each evaluation takes 200 milliseconds. During this time span the product is evaluated and a decision (to buy or not to buy) is made. The first eye movement-evoked response is decisive. These outcomes are highly relevant for the companies that produce consumer goods. A practical inclination is that they should not radically alter packaging too often or too frequently. Package is essential to consumer behavior. Consumers focus on a certain brand image and package design. If the consumer does not perceive the expected product, more time will be spent exploring the different possibilities in this product category. A profound change in the appearance of products is a standing invitation to buy rival products. Coca-Cola demonstrated this with excellent proof with their recent Christmas Coke special offer. People were upset and confused because they failed to recognize the white package as their favorite red product. This fact is, by the way, perfectly understood by the automobile industry. They entice us by showing exciting new models, but in reality the exterior of their cars only changes in very subtle ways- little by little, year by year. That is a commercially effective response to the consumer’s brain. In the Shopper Engagement Study it was also observed that consumers perceive supermarkets as a part of their social environment. In the United States especially, supermarkets - not big box stores – act as a hub for the entire community. The local restaurant and coffee bar is a meeting point for friends, elderly people and other locals. There is a strong tendency for supermarkets to be cheap and sterile. In a study in Israel, the contrary was found to apply. A store that invested in lots of space, created a pleasant experience, socializing opportunities and quality foods realized very good results even though it took some time to build a circle of customers who were all very loyal and willing to pay a slightly higher price to enjoy shopping instead of seeing the experience as an ordeal. 

    Resistance

    Many people demonstrate an aversion towards neuroscientific research and are not positively inclined towards the results. Sands confirms this and illustrates why this is quite easy to explain. “We humans like to think of ourselves as intellectual, logical beings. The fact that we use associations and pictures to take decisions is contrary to that idea. Neuroresearch also shows more illogical behavior. An example: nutritional information on product is rarely red. Consumers also pay scant attention to price information. In contrast, we found that people find it very rewarding to buy ‘not so healthy-foods’ such as sweets, candy, ice-cream and alcohol. Illogically, they spend little time in these categories. Decision making is rapid. Far more time is spent buying less exciting products, such as groceries and milk.” 

    “Another reason why people find it hard to believe their own behavior is the fact that consumers do not act the way they verbally intend to. In a study on sunscreen we showed our subjects a trailer of advertisements. Shortly after showing this we asked them to indicate in a questionnaire which products they intended to buy. Of course the research subject, this sunscreen, was not obvious among the other products. At the moment of seeing the trailer we also recorded the brain’s responses. A week later we ran an unannounced questionnaire on products that had been purchased in the last week. We asked our respondents to check their receipts and shelves. Our research showed 0.7 correlation (r) between brain response and actual shopping behavior. In contrast, the correlation between stated intention and buying was a meager 0.2, which is close to no relation at all. People find it hard to believe and unpleasant to face the fact that they have so little knowledge of their own behavior. It seems as if we hardly know ourselves.” 
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