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COMMENTARY
MEDIA & MARKETING | Contributed Content, Singapore
Published: 06 Dec 13
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James Breeze

Why the subconscious mind is important for Singaporean marketers

BY JAMES BREEZE

Consumer product giants in Singapore, whose supply chain and turnover reports rely on how fast the baby nappies, soaps, and food items can fly off the shelves, no longer depend on just survey results and focus groups to collect consumer data.

Singaporean companies now realise they need better ways to understand their consumers. To some of the product owners, the phrase market research still sounds tedious and time consuming. Consequently, whenever they encounter a hypothesis, they choose to rely on the already available industry stats to validate it. This leads to uninformed decision making.

Technology that supports marketers and market research is no longer limited to mall intercept surveys. Today’s advanced approach to marketing has introduced highly developed technologies, such as eye tracking, that give us the opportunity to understand unconscious consumer behaviour.

Our brain receives visual information about colours, shapes, and movement of objects and then leaves the unnecessary details to the subconscious mind that plays a major role in decision making. Eye tracking studies basically offer several best practices for the effective use of this visual information.

Businesses use the collected data to identify valuable information about the subconscious mind of their consumers, or consumers they would like to attract. This further helps product owners make decisions about product size, packaging design, and the placement of products on store shelves.

It is too risky to rely on shoppers’ experience solely because they may say they like a product and they will buy it. What we find is that their actual purchases tell a different story.

Because much of a person’s decision making when purchasing is subconscious, it becomes necessary for marketers to use eye tracking outputs to support a better understanding of consumer behaviour.

Undoubtedly, it is a positive development in the business sector in Singapore and to leverage eye tracking in different contexts, a basic understanding of its limitations and benefits is necessary.

Eye tracking is one of the methods for collecting data in digital, print  and retail contexts. It enables companies to meet the unspoken needs of their consumers. The limitations of the method include the lack of automated testing and the qualitative nature of the method.

Eye tracking helps companies see the retail environment through their consumer’s eyes. It reveals the hidden factors involved in people’s decision making process. When people get a replay of how their eyes navigate to find interesting factors across a scene; they can explain the reasoning behind their actions more clearly as opposed to relying on memory only. Eye tracking outputs are easy to understand therefore highly believable.

Traditionally, eye tracking studies in consumer behaviour see the basic concept of eye gaze as threefold:

  1. Visibility: Do customers notice a package placed on a cluttered store-shelf?
  2. Engagement: Do marketing campaigns are noticed? Or people just bypass the information on point of sale advertisements.
  3. Viewing Patterns: Which elements of a message are consistently read and which are frequently ignored.

We extend this approach and believe that the greatest value of eye tracking lies in using it as a tool to gain diagnostic insights to drive positive action.

  1. Attention: Why do customers notice a package and how do we ensure they look at it?
  2. Information: What information do people need and how they interpret a message consistently?
  3. Action: Once they have looked at a package, how do we maintain their attention and get them to pick it up?

As researchers we assume that fixations are the peak points where cognition bubbles into consumer’s consciousness. These are the points at which we help companies improve the product or communication with the consumer.  

The validity of eye tracking technology depends on a customised approach to the study, application and analysis used. Consumers’ interests should not be taken for granted, nor should the way to use such advanced technology.

While marketers in Singapore leverage eye tracking, they drive innovation and increase their focus on helping companies win in a competitive environment.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

James Breeze

James Breeze

James is a Customer Experience, Eye Tracking, Usability Testing, UX and Research Strategist with extensive experience helping businesses understand their customers. He is dedicated to improving the implementation and success of all types of customer touch points to improve the global community, drive profits, and reduce costs. He is a keen social networker, university adjuct at NUS ISS, and professional speaker.

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