Why Eye Tracking is not Enough

Over the past year I’ve asked a good number of senior marketing people in European companies if they have any experience with neuromarketing. The answer, perhaps rather surprisingly, is often YES.

Digging deeper to find out which techniques have been used usually results in a response of: “we use/have used eye tracking”.

Well, it’s a good first step that eye tracking is being used but, on its own it’s not enough to tell you much of value (related to emotion or purchase intent) and actually, eye tracking results can be downright misleading. I think it’s important for European marketers to understand the limitations because I predict a growing number of companies will start using the technique in 2019/2020.

I won’t go into the details of how eye tracking works but essentially near-infrared light is directed toward the center of the eyes (the pupils) causing visible reflections in the cornea (the outermost optical element of the eye), and this high-contrast image is tracked by a camera.

So what can eye tracking tell you?

It can …

  • Assess customer attention to key messages and advertising.
  • Evaluate product performance, product and package design, and overall customer experience.
  • Get information related to the ease or difficulty of in-store navigation, search behavior, and purchase choices.
  • Be used for HCI, website and usability testing to see how people view the content, what they ignore etc.

That all sounds great right? Well yes it is. Eye tracking is a valuable technique and its increasingly popular because:

  • It’s excellent for measuring visual attention, cognitive load and goal pursuit.
  • The metrics are well established and easy to understand.
  • No skin sensors required.
  • New portable eye tracking hardware allows mobile testing “in the field”.
  • It’s relatively inexpensive, scalable and results are quick.

So far you must be wondering why I say eye tracking is not enough and could even be “bad” for you.

Here’s why:

  • It can’t tell why someone is looking – it tells you what they see but not how they perceive it.
  • It can’t tell you whether the emotional reaction is positive or negative.
  • It tells you nothing about the memorability of what they have seen.
  • It only records what’s happening at the centre of our gaze, not the edges and this is important because what happens on the edge of our vision has a strong impact on our behaviour and reactions.
  • The increasingly popular web based solutions are not that accurate (compared to inlab software options anyway).

So what this means is that, for example, eye tracking could show someone is looking at area for a long time..that’s good? Maybe but it could be because they don’t understand it and are trying to figure it out.

If they look away quickly is it because they are uninterested, bored, disgusted or because they got the info and moved on? Impossible to say with eye tracking.

Looking away and back again in a repeated fashion can signify both interest or confusion.

Will they remember what they have seen? No way to know with eye tracking.

So be warned that many results from eye tracking have the potential to be explained by both positive and negative scenarios.

So what does this mean? Stop using eye tracking?

No. Given the price of eye tracking is decreasing and the fact it’s relatively easy to use, I’d suggest you do use eye tracking but to get the most value, and to avoid misunderstanding the results, you will need to combine it with another technique to understand (at least) the emotion behind the recorded actions. In most cases face reader technology would solve the problem. Simultaneous recording of eye tracking data and facial movements is the easiest/most cost effective option. Even just combining with a simple heart rate monitor would allow you to measure arousal (but not positive or negative emotion).

For example, in 2019, Nielsen used EEG, facial coding and eye tracking, to test several upcoming Kleenex TV spots that highlighted the innovative product extension for the tissue brand. The results revealed which assets created the highest brand resonance with viewers and where the brand had strayed too far from their existing network of associations—and in fact, lifted a competitive brand. “Being able to measure resonance of a brand as it is represented in the brain is critically important for any brand who wants to understand their equity network over time and understand how new innovation builds, or hurts, that network”. 

Source: neuromarketingtips.eu TIP/INSIGHT 573

Leave a Reply