Chapter 1

An intro to neuroscience

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rationale for neuroscience

Confused shoppers

The brain can make an emotional decision in less than a tenth of a second

As humans, we’re mostly unaware of our subconscious choices, which makes it difficult for customers to tell us about them when we ask.

Yes, rating a checkout experience ‘8’ on an NPS scale is a win, and valuable feedback can reveal that the customer ‘found it hard to find the right product’. However, a number and a free text comment box aren’t going to give you insight on how your checkout delivery options left the customer frustrated, with a high cognitive load, and eventually resulted in them deciding not to add additional add-on items to their basket. All feedback and customer insight methods have their place and, when used together, provide a holistic view of customer opinion, behaviour and emotion. But surveys, questionnaires, interviews, persona focus groups – all our tools for capturing customer thoughts and feelings come with some level of bias or inaccuracy. Simply because customers often give their conscious opinions, but are unable to be aware of their subconscious responses.

Whilst neuroscience isn’t mind-reading, it allows scientists to dig deeper and understand what makes consumers tick under the surface. Neuroscience can be used to predict or measure physiological and emotional responses, using methods less susceptible to bias than other forms of market research.

There are four main types of neuroscience study:

Laboratory neuroscience

Using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to measure brain activity.

In-person neuroscience

Using physical wires and sensors to track measures such as electrical brain activity (EEG), skin response (GSR) and eye tracking.

Online neuroscience

Using mobile devices to assess measures such as implicit association tests (IATs), eye tracking and pupillometry.

Offline neuroscience

These studies are twofold; research and analysis combined with an empirical study to predict response, or the study of existing theory and knowledge by doctors to predict response.

Studies of this depth, applied to retail, give an unprecedented level of insight. In 2022’s complex retail landscape, competitive edge is centred around meeting, and setting, customer expectations. A CapGemini report found that 82% of consumers with high emotional engagement would stay loyal when making purchase decisions, so there is a tangible business benefit to truly understanding your customer.

It’s time to offer DX led by the want and need of the customer, rather than just the want and need of the retailer.