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Rapid Neural “motivation” Responses Drive In-store Purchases

By Neurons Inc

Author: Neurons Inc 

Test effects of ad exposure on in-store neural responses for a major North American retail corporation

Little is still understood about the actual in-store purchase process, and research is often limited by traditional research methods that rely on conscious self-reports. While traditional market research methods only allow recording of actual purchase and customers’ self-reports about the reasons behind their choices, neuromarketing methods allow better assessment and understanding of key unconscious processes underlying consumer choice.

Here, we report the result of two consumer neuroscience studies that explore whether in-store decisions can be traced to immediate neural responses that precede conscious deliberation.

In Study 1 we used mobile eye-tracking and electroencephalography (EEG) to identify key neural responses that predict in-store purchase. Customers were asked to complete five different purchase tasks, and were free to use or save money they had previously been given. We used Area of Interest analysis to extract attentional and neural responses when customers looked at a particular product. All data were corrected for movement and eye blink artefacts. To assess customer motivation, we analyzed the prefrontal asymmetry index (PAI) in the gamma frequency. 

In Study 2 we employed the same methodology to test the effects of prior ad exposure on in-store physiological, neural and behavioral responses. Customers were shown a series of commercials prior to entering the store, and while one group saw a particular commercial for paint, the control group saw all other commercials except this one. We assessed both the level of visual attention and neural motivation (PAI) while customers performed tasks inside the store. Crucially, we compared the effects of prior ads on visual attention and PAI when customers were instructed to purchase paint. 

Customer in-store choices are rapid and unconscious. Our two studies demonstrate that long before customers are consciously aware of it, unconscious responses are driving their in-store responses. Besides showing this main effect, we demonstrate that prior exposure to ad materials can affect unconscious attentional and motivational responses that ultimately lead to increased chance of purchase. 

Final Thoughts
Our results highlight the importance of the assessment and understanding of rapid, unconscious responses in the in-store situation. Our method provides a protocol for assessing these responses, allowing future studies to improve our understanding of the actual drivers of in-store consumer choice. Such studies could explore the effect of entry signs, in-store signage or long-term effects of ad exposure on in-store behavior.

Contact Information
Neurons Inc, Denmark
Contact Person: Dr. Thomas Zoëga Ramsøy

This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing yearbook of 2014. If you would like to order the Neuromarketing year book 2015, 2016 or 2017 click here!


Interested in neuromarketing applied to retail? Take a look at the website of the Shopper Brain Conference to learn more about this!