The Eyes Don’t Lie
Several CPG companies are adopting eye-tracking technologies as a way to overcome the unreliable answers that often come from focus groups. Pairing such devices with mockups of supermarkets is enabling brands to roll out new products faster and more cheaply while coming up with packaging and shelf layouts that draw attention.
According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, advances since the nineties now enable retinas to be tracked to gain a clear view of where consumers "are looking, for how long and how often." The collected information is formed into a "heat map" with colors indicating where people looked on a simulated shelf.
Using a retina-tracking camera, Kimberly-Clark determined which packaging designs on Viva paper towels attracted consumers’ attention during the first 10 seconds they viewed the shelf, according to the report.
In exploring a redesign of its Axe body wash, Unilever had testers wear specially equipped glasses that sensed sideways and vertical motion within a virtual 3D environment. Results led Unilever to change the canister’s shape from curvy to straight and also guided decisions around colors and font size. Eye-tracking was also used by Unilever to change shelf space for a deodorant.
"With a virtual shelf set, in a few seconds, with a click of the mouse, you can modify your product, your pack, your display, and really co-create it with the consumer almost in real time," Joanne Crudele, Unilever’s director of global skin consumer technical insight told the Journal.
Lower costs are also driving increased usage of simulation and eye-tracking. P&G told the Journal that most physical prototypes cost more than $1,500 and can run significantly higher. Now, 80 percent of P&G’s new products are developed using some form of software modeling or simulation.
But eye-tracking technologies are also seen as more reliable than focus groups, where participants often overestimate their interest.
"There’s often a big disconnect between what people want to do and what they say they want to do," Steve Posavac, a professor of marketing at Vanderbilt University, told the Journal. "Any attitude," he said, "becomes more extreme" in research studies.
Brain-wave monitoring and facial-recognition technologies are likewise increasingly used in consumer research over focus groups to more accurately gauge intent.
Writing for Modern DC Business, Marcia Moran, a consultant, said such simulation technologies might decrease the barrier to entry for new or smaller companies and speed up product development overall. But she wondered whether retina-tracking technologies track "all of the relevant inputs" that drive human behavior.
- The Eyes Have It: Marketers Now Track Shoppers’ Retinas – The Wall Street Journal
- Getting Into the Consumer’s Head With Eye-Tracking Technology – Mediabistro.com
- Digital tools aid FMCG giants – Warc
- The New Science Behind Marketing And Package Design – Modern DC Business
Discussion Questions: What do you see as the pros and cons of eye-tracking technologies in testing packaging and shelf sets? Overall, how do you think increased use of simulation techniques will affect the go-to-market cycle?