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Eye-tracking technology seeks to uncover what customers want

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For Jeff Bander, senior VP-client services for MRC International, knowing what people fail to see on publishers' websites is just as important as what they do see. “It's not just what users saw but what they didn't see that can tell [publishers] a lot more sometimes,” Bander said. “[Our technology] takes away the guesswork out of knowing what customers are paying attention to.” Bander is betting MRC International's eye-tracking technology, called EyeTrackShop, will enhance both online marketing and advertising. The technology, which is proprietary, lets publishers know how their online advertising is perceived by customers within 48 hours. Bander spoke with Digital Directions about what the technology has to offer. Digital Directions: How does eye tracking technology work? Jeff Bander: Our clients give us criteria on who they want to test for the eye tracking, such as gender, age and income. Whomever we're testing will get a link in their email that will either come from the client or from us. The link will ask users for permission to use their webcam and also ask users to make sure they have good lighting. The next screen comes on asking, for a second time, to give us permission to turn on your webcam. The webcam comes on and the user sees a silhouette of a face; the user puts his face in that spot. The test begins and the user will see approximately 13 different dots in various areas of the screen; this is how the webcam calibrates the respondents' eyes. The webcam is taking pictures of your eyes, from 10 to 20 pictures a second. After the webcam calibrates the respondent's eyes, the respondent will see the stimuli being tested—whether it's a magazine cover, an editorial, an ad in magazine or a page on a website. DD: How does this technology help business publishers enhance their online advertising compared with other online tools? Bander: The big thing that everyone wants to make sure of is, do users see the key message that is being conveyed? It may be a branding ad or a call to action. We can tell you exactly what the [audience] saw; we can tell you how long users looked at a specific area of a website, and the different areas of what they're looking at on the screen and what order they saw each area of the image. DD: Explain how EyeTrackShop works for business publishers? Bander: The beauty of EyeTrackShop is that you get results in 48 hours. You can also test globally since [the] technology works on webcams. After the test, we go through a questionnaire and ask users about 18 questions that focus on brand recall, message recall, purchase intent and emotions evoked from the ad [or] website.
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