Neuromarketing research: Innovative research methods and techniques
For many years, questionnaires and interviews were used to assess needs, motives, and preferences of consumers. But, non-verbal responses can also provide important information. Repeatedly, behavioral research has demonstrated that people often don’t do what they say they will do. To dive deeper into the unconscious preferences of consumers, innovative research methods and techniques found their way into the field of marketing studies.
Neuromarketing has become increasingly more popular
Neuromarketing research is a field of marketing that studies consumers' sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli. It is an interesting mix of companies and universities that invest in neuromarketing to gather more information about consumer behavior.
Medical techniques and insights of neuroscience are used to reveal consumer decision-making processes. Neuromarketers make use of neural- and physiological responses, and behavior, to understand the subconscious reactions of consumers.
Techniques in neuromarketing research
In the field of neuromarketing several different technologies are used to measure changes in activity in parts of the brain, outward expressions such as facial expressions, and changes in one's physiological state.
All techniques are aimed at learning more about why consumers make the decisions the way they do, and if a part of the brain is telling them to make these decisions.
Implicit responses refer to the body’s automatic reaction to stimulus. This can be very valuable, because in traditional methods these would stay below the surface.
To measure brain activity, researchers most commonly use EEG, MEG, or fMRI systems. For example, the subject is instructed to watch a commercial while their neuronal electronical activity is measured by using an EEG-cap. With the measured changes in brain activity, one can draw conclusions about the effects of specific elements in the commercial.
Another method to measure an implicit response is using GSR (Galvanic skin response). This method measures the electrical conductance of the skin, and can indicate whether a person is bored or tense. If a person is excited, the level of electrical conductance increases – if a person gets bored, the level of electrical conductance drops.
There are more ways to measure implicit responses: blood pressure, heart rate, skin temperature… Learn more about these data acquisition systems.
Basic emotions, represented by facial expressions, are not conscious and can thus deliver great information about subconscious processes. Facial expressions can tell us a lot, sometimes even more than we are aware of.
Automated analysis of facial expressions brings clear insights into the effect of different stimuli on emotions. In Neuromarketing research, especially the affective states (interest, boredom and confusion) of the participant show an added value. It tells a lot about appreciation towards commercials, brands or products.
How do you know a consumer is feeling (highly) engaged? Dayenne Sarkol-Teulings created a custom expression in FaceReader to measure the level of engagement: learn more about her validation study in this blog post.
A positive emotion towards a product can determine a positive decision. It’s all about the connections that are made unconsciously. Immediately after a product or visual is introduced to the consumer, he or she feels positive or negative emotions. Researchers worldwide measure these emotions by using FaceReader, software that automatically classifies facial expressions.
Often eye tracking technology is combined with facial expression analysis techniques to provide insight in preferences, desire, appreciation, and more. Both eye tracking and expression analysis can add substantial power to your research by providing information about attention and emotion.
Scan paths indicate for example how people look at websites and advertisements: which parts of an advertisement they actually look at and for how long they look at various items. And when a participant has previous experience with an application, the scan path of the eyes will have fewer fixations. Modern eye trackers can easily generate this information, which makes them increasingly popular in neuromarketing studies.
Combining research tools such as an eye tracker, FaceReader, and The Observer XT (coding and analysis software), can add substantial power to your research.
Our own subconscious has a lot more influence on our behavior then we could ever imagine. What do we really see, notice, and what is registered in our memory? How do we make decisions? By making use of new research methods and techniques, marketers try to understand these processes. The better we know how the brain functions, the better we know how to influence decision making processes. Of course, advertisement placement and government campaigns can then be adjusted and made more effective.
In tools such as The Observer XT, facial expressions, physiological data, eye tracking data, and video can be integrated. To provide a good overview of stimulus-response, such a tool can be of real value to your research.
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