Neuroscience and the Online Purchase

May 31, 2011 9:54 am

Neuroscience and the Online Purchase



In an article from Internet Retailing Magazine, SimpleUsability explains why it pays to get emotional about your online brand.

When we talk about emotional engagement, we don’t mean ordering an ‘I heart [insert your brand logo here]’ t-shirt and giving the CEO a bear hug, we’re referring to the scientific study of emotions and how they have the starring role in the purchase decisions made by your customers.

Have you ever asked yourself how your users feel while they are using your product or your website?

It makes intuitive sense that if your users have a positive emotional experience on your site they’re more likely to convert from browsers into buyers. Do you know exactly what on your site is converting using emotional equity, and what is failing?

We are irrational beings, and nowhere more so than when we are online and (believe it or not) when we are parting with cash. In fact, neuroscientists argue that emotions drive between 90-99% of all decisions we ever make. We have evolved a highly sophisticated subconscious brain that effortlessly deals with the millions of inputs we perceive every second before delivering it to the attention of our conscious brains, via ‘gut’ emotions. Yet the most widely used methods in usability testing often involve asking a user’s conscious brain why it did something. The truth is it simply doesn’t know.

Traditionally, usability testing has been employed as a conversion rate optimisation tool by retailers, helping them iron out pitfalls and craft better user journeys. In recent years the addition of eye tracking technology has allowed us to go further by observing what users naturally do as opposed to what they think they do, revealing further opportunities to capitalise on. Whilst eye tracking alone lets us observe what a user actually does we cannot infer what was felt by a user.

Retrospective interviews with the user (where their own eye tracking is played back to them as a reminder) go some way to revealing what they were trying to achieve at that time. Whilst they can give us an overall expletive as to how they felt when a payment form wiped their billing details for the fourth time, what no human can recall is the granular detail of emotions as they were building, and what exact part of the site or journey triggered them.

EEG – The New Kid on the Usability Block

So, how do you know your site is pushing the right emotional buttons? The sophisticated measurement system offered by Electroencephalography (EEG) taps directly into electrical activity arising from the brain. Using complex algorithms and models of human behaviour from modern neuropsychology, key emotional markers of mood and emotional experience can be extracted. This represents a previously unavailable opportunity for marketers, advertisers, developers and more to see the actual emotional impact of their product, promotion or design and, as a technique, it’s set to join up the subconscious dots………

In this article, we show how EEG with Eye Tracking helped one online retailer understand how their customers respond emotionally to their website.

Download the pdf to read the full article.