Neuroscience Applied to Consumer Research

For many years insights into consumers’ needs and wanting have been based on asking people. Well knowing that people often say one thing and do another. In that case, there has been a desire to find and make use other research methods in the marketing toolbox. Neuroscientific techniques are such new tools, and neuroscientific research design refers to a toolbox, containing both bio-metric and neuro-metric equipment.

This way of doing consumer research, has challenged the prevailing theory of decision-making in the last decade. In particular the neuroscience research has questioned decision models of fast and repeated purchases, such as the Cue Utilization Theory and the Theory of Planned Behavior. Common for these models is the assumption that consumers know what they want and base their decision on interpreting relevant information. In that way, the process becomes linear and conscious. However, many in-store purchase situations are most often heavily loaded with all kinds of information, making a planned and deliberate choice process virtually impossible.

Real-world purchase situations are characterized by multiple competing visual stimuli, including advertising, shelf hangers, floor-graphics, and visual displays that continuously try to grab consumers’ visual attention, in the hope of affecting their interpretation and final choice. Previous in-store studies have already revealed that consumers do not have a complete overview of their purchase intentions, and even more importantly people rely on their visual perception while choosing and purchasing products. In that way, an in-store decision depends very much on consumers’ ability to find themselves through an endless pool of visual stimuli all fighting for the limited resources of the human brain.

The eye tracking technology has over the last decade made it possible to step out of the Lab and into the stores. This enables us to study consumers’ responses to shelf-displays, in-store advertisements and not least, to study how people select among competing brands in a naturalistic environment. Doing research in real life conditions do also increase the amount of data and the complexity significantly. It also poses a great challenge for both academic and commercial researchers. The risk of drowning in data lies straight ahead if the study hasn’t been carefully planed and designed. This is the real challenge of applied neuroscience to consumer research.

Prof.Dr. Jesper Clement
About The Author

Prof.Dr. Jesper Clement

Associate Professor Dr. Jesper Clement is the head of SenseLab at Decision Neuroscience Research Cluster (DNRC), at Department of Marketing, Copenhagen Business School. It is the home base for projects in the borderland between brain research and behavioral research. The DNRC is an initiative within the discipline of research, emerging from an integration of the traditional research areas such as consumer behavior, economics, psychology and neuroscience. Prof. Dr. Jesper Clement has published studies with data from neuroscientific techniques in journals like; European Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Management, and Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services. Please feel free to contact the author to: jc.marktg@cbs.dk

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