Shopper-marketing experts have discovered that the shopper they've been observing, questioning and surveying all these years has had a second, silent partner along for the store visit: her subconscious. Shopper marketing is in the throes of a paradigm shift, as the field learns how to best leverage new technologies that aim to expose what consumers feel but cannot necessarily articulate.
Campbell Soup Co., for one, worked with Innerscope Research to rethink its package design and in-store displays. The first study in 2008, combined biometric vests and "hat-cam" cameras (complemented by eye-tracking/pupil measurement, as participants subsequently re-experienced their shopping trips on video) with in-depth, ethnographic interviews. The study revealed that even with major merchandising improvements executed several years earlier, consumers still found the soup category confusing and frustrating to shop. People thought of Campbell's as soothing, nurturing and healing -- but that wasn't translating into purchases. In store, subjects experienced "navigational disorientation," finding the wall of red and white soup cans overwhelming. So, with little biometric response, they chose a soup and moved on. Those who really explored the shelves had a greater, biometrically evident emotional response and bought more soup.
"By integrating biometric response with eye tracking and the measurement of pupil dilation, Innerscope was able to differentiate not only between positive and negative responses but also, within negative responses, between a bored, disconnected reaction and a more anxious, aversive response," said Bob Woodard, VP-global consumer and customer insights, Campbell. "Neither negative response is good, but the latter clearly provides a bigger opportunity to improve in-store merchandising."
A second study by research company Merchant Mechanics in 2009 focused on soup labels and shelf cards and tracked eye movement, pupil dilation and facial expressions as participants shopped. This work identified opportunities to improve the consumer's emotional response to labels and shelf cards. The repositioning included changes to the label including removing the spoon, adding steam and redesigning the bowl. The more contemporary design aided consumers in recalling a positive emotional connection to soup as nurturing. The company also retooled its merchandising approach, creating color-coded "benefit clusters" on labels and shelf cards, specifying a particular variety as "Classic Favorite" or "Great for Cooking." Eye tracking found that consumers considered the famous red Campbell logo at the top of the product distracting -- so the logo got smaller and dropped to a lower position on the label.
Before implementing those changes, Campbell first wanted to use virtual reality to test them out. So a third study, in 2010, incorporated Innerscope's technology -- this time using a biometric belt rather than a vest, plus eye tracking and the measurement of pupil dilation -- with interactive research company Vision Critical's virtual shopping environment. After the study, Campbell moved forward with in-store changes.
"Neuroscience methods measure various areas of activity in the nervous system and these areas of activity are proxies for -- and not direct measurements of -- the psychological processes that we all recognize, such as attention, emotion, memory, etc.," Mr. Woodward said, adding that that 's important because "it encourages us to exercise a bit of healthy restraint when interpreting and using the results of neuroscience studies."For more on learning what motivates, check out our shopper-marketing reports on AdAge.com/insights.