Archive for June, 2016

In-person vs. technology-based observations

Following on from our last blog which talked about the use of eye tracking technology, we will now focus on the use of observational technology for shopper insight.

Observational research is key for understanding shoppers, as it provides the most objective insight into how shoppers truly behave at the point of purchase.

HOW we observe shoppers is key, and there are essentially two major choices… in-person observation vs. technology-based observation. The techniques naturally come with very different price tags, so it’s important to understand when it’s appropriate to use each one.

In-person observations

Let’s start with in-person observation. Putting it simply, this involves using a trained observer to stand in a store with a tablet/pen and paper, discretely capturing quantitative metrics of behaviour for individuals. For example how long do they spend shopping? How many products do they touch? Which brand do they buy? It’s fairly basic in its approach, and therefore usually offers the most cost effective solution to capture some key in-store metrics over a short space of time. There is no need for complex camera installation or post fieldwork footage streaming, which can make it the simplest and most scalable approach, especially when conducting global projects where some markets simply won’t have access to technology to do this any other way.

Technology-based observations

So why would you go to the trouble of installing expensive cameras/technology and streaming footage? There are several key reasons why …

Accuracy – using human observer’s in-store means that you are liable to human error. If the area of observation happens to be very busy, it will be impossible to expect an in-store observer to accurately capture everything that is going on.  The beauty of using cameras is that the footage can be re-watched and re-watched until all the data is collected, making it a far more accurate technique for measuring multiple behaviours.

Detail – building on the point about accuracy, some measures that we want to observe may be too difficult for in-store observers to capture – for example are shoppers studying (engaging without physically interacting with the category)? How long are shoppers spending at specific sections or sub-categories within their total category time spend? Are shoppers reading the front, back or side of particular product packs?  If you require more complex metrics, then filming allows you to watch the footage in slow motion, accurately capturing each and every measure.

Sample Size – if you’re just looking for a read on behaviour, then a good observer will be able to capture the behaviour of dozens of shoppers over a few days and perhaps a couple of hundred in a week, which is perfectly robust for many shopper research needs. However, if our question is about conversion, then a more robust base size over a longer period of time might be required. Observational technology can capture thousands of shoppers over a longer period of time, and with the more automated techniques available, can actually be a more cost effective way of collecting some simple metrics with this level of scale.

There are also various types of technology available to help us observe shoppers too, including more automated techniques such as Xbox motion tracking and smart phone wi-fi tracking through to manual video capture and coding. Again each technology will have pros and cons, the choice you make is largely down to your objectives, budget and timeframes. More on these next time…..

The Power of Eye Tracking

We’ve talked in general about technology application for shopper research in our previous blogs, so we now want to focus on how to apply some of the specific technologies to shopper research. Today we will concentrate on eye tracking.

Eye tracking was first introduced as a technology suitable for shopper research way back in 1993! The technology has come a long way from the clunky camera mounted cycle helmet used back then; making the technique far more widespread, cost effective and accessible. However, the power of the technology will only be harnessed through successful application to your business issues.

Eye tracking works through utilising an infra-red beam to track exact eye movement. As so much of our shopping behaviour is sub-conscious, eye tracking is invaluable for understanding the visual cues that shoppers use sub consciously to find, shop and buy their chosen products.

When should eye tracking be used?

It has three main applications in retail/etail …

1.Merchandising Optimisation – understanding more about the visual process used to find and buy products by identifying fixture/web hotspots to help us maximise product positioning on shelf

2. POS Optimisation – understanding what communication items people don’t look at is as insightful as understanding what they DO look at! As so much of our visual environment is discarded; being able to understand what POS items aren’t seen could save thousands of pounds of unnecessary marketing spend, allowing us to concentrate on the items that ARE seen and utilised throughout the shopping process

3. Packaging Optimisation – many new products fail because they lack stand out on the shelf. If we understand more about what products, brands, colours and shapes create shopper cut through in a category, we can use those visual cues on pack to ensure our brands to get noticed and purchased!

Are all eye trackers the same?

It is not just about choosing eye tracking as the correct technique to meet your business needs – the type of eye tracker you should use also needs to be considered in-line with the business questions you are trying to address. If you are interested in understanding web-based eye movement, then static eye tracking equipment such as Tobii will be most appropriate. However, mobile eye tracking is better suited for projects conducted in a bricks and mortar environment.

If you’re objective is to unpick the most important elements of your pack or POS message, then the type of eye tracker you use will be essential, as some eye trackers are better equipped to measure visual activity to a detailed pack level than others; which is why getting to the heart of your issue is key before jumping to the technology solution!

Eye tracking is particularly useful for understanding the shopping process in environments/categories where physical product contact is limited and visual cues are key to selection – such as fast food, bars, kiosks and tobacco. However, eye tracking is not the best tool to understand shopper issues such as how to layout a store or how to optimise range and space. Equally eye tracking alone may not provide all the answers to any business issue. As with all shopper insight, the key is in interlacing different technologies and methods to get the best results.

Our next blog will focus on the different techniques and technologies available to observe physical shopper behaviour…

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