Why is Eye-Tracking Important for Market Research

6 min readApr 23, 2018


95% of the purchase decisions happen in the subconscious”

Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman’s latest book, How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market, delves into the subconscious mind of the consumer — the place where most purchasing decisions are made. He states that 95% of purchase decisions happen in the subconscious mind. The question: How can marketers understand unconscious consumer thinking?

Market Researchers are now focused on “implicit” insights — and even putting probes near people’s head to assess what kind of electromagnetic signals our brain emits when exposed to an advertisement, product or a concept. Neuroscience is one way to reach that elusive 95%, tracking how people’s eye moves is another way. Eye-Tracking is essentially a window to understand people’s behaviour and assess what is going on in the subconscious.

Our world and our decision-making processes are getting ever more complex. Brand leaders need more information on the underlying cognitive processes and the emotions that influence consumer behavior. Whenever we test new products in the real-world, changes to the design of products or brand based on traditional market research results are exorbitant and sluggish.

This is where Eye Tracking Technology comes to the rescue. It helps us to analyse human processing of visual information, measuring attention, interest and arousal, making it an incredibly useful tool for research on human behaviour.

The attraction of eye tracking to an average market researcher is clear. The prospect of seeing the world through your customers’ eyes, literally, as opposed to relying on traditional market research methods, is exhilarating. The eye of the consumer holds a wealth of valuable information, and yet sometimes it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Eye tracking, therefore, is a clear step towards objectively understanding what really drives the shopping experience and purchase decisions, at a subconscious level.

What you see is what you buy!

Compared to an average consumer 100 years ago, today’s consumer is bombarded with a multiple variety of stimuli in terms of advertisements, products (huge shelves in retail, unlimited shelves in e-retail), social media, entertainment content, flyers, digital signage solutions and many more. Even if a company’s product finds a place on the shelf, it is still competing with hundreds of other products for the attention of a visually overloaded consumer. Getting a right pack design that captures the attention of consumers now gives your product a chance to engage with the consumer and educate her about the merits of the product.

Package Design — The Game Changer

In a crowded retail environment the visibility of a product is a major component for its success. The following example validates this hypothesis.

Take the case two competing FMCG brands, A & B. They have similar market share and are in the expansion phase. As part of their strategy they start distribution channels in Tier 2 retail stores. Due to equal market credibility, the retailer gives both brands similar shelf space and position.

However, due to superior packaging, brand A becomes dominant in the sales figure as compared to brand B. This gives rise to a virtuous cycle.

“Anyways 70% decisions are believed to be made in store. A significant chunk of the driver of this decision could be how attractive is the product packaging”

Higher sales for brand A leads to an inflated marketing budget to capture the tier 2 market, when in turn leads to better profit margins for the retailers, that finally culminates with brand A acquiring better shelf space and position.
Hence it is imperative for all companies to attract and retain the attention of consumers by coming up with innovative and enticing packaging designs. Eye tracking can be a very useful tool in this endeavor. By conducting an Eye tracking based retail research the companies can obtain valuable insights in consumer in-store behavior. It will allow study of shelf positioning, purchase intent, response to possible packaging designs, comparison with competitor packages and many more relevant results. All this data can be then be applied to come up with high quality packaging designs for different category of products.


In today’s world, the window of opportunity for an advertisement is extremely brief. Many consumers actively tune out ads as soon as they recognize them. Some consumers get accustomed to the ads popping on websites/apps that they unconsciously start ignoring them. This holds true for television, print and the Internet. Eye Tracking Technology offers the best method of testing whether or not your marketing efforts are reaching your audience.

  • Mobile Ads

Millenials have become immune to ads popping on their mobiles. Most companies are struggling to come up with effective mobile ad campaigns to attract the attention of the user. Eye Tracking can be utilised to understand online behavior of different category of users. The response to various visual stimuli can be recorded and analysed to improve ad design and positioning for mobile platforms.

  • TV Ads

Television advertisements still holds majority chunk of the marketing budget of many corporations. They have a firm belief that even in this internet age, considerable amount of time is spent watching traditional news and entertainment channels, and their assumption is not flawed. However timing and placement of these ads is critical as the substantial capital is involved in developing such campaigns. By analysing the gaze patterns of the respondents, high responsive areas of the TV screen can be mapped. The duration of these fixations is also of paramount importance as it allows the companies to time their ads for maximum ROI.

  • Print Ads

Newspaper remains a major advertisement platform for companies to launch new products or services. The cost of a front page advertisement in a major newspaper can run into thousands of dollars. It is important for companies to understand user reaction to these ads with respect to Ad position on a page and the page of placement.

By recording eye tracking videos for multiple respondents, researchers can identify opportune positions to place Ads for maximum recognition.

  • Digital Signage Solutions

Companies spend millions of dollars to put up digital banners and displays at all possible locations to get the attention of consumers. However the outcome of such campaigns is not always favorable for the company. Digital Signage displays at football games is the best example of such Advertisement campaigns.. Since a lot of funds are at stake, the companies cannot afford to goof up the placements of such Ads. Eye tracking will allow researchers to study the gaze pattern of respondents at different strategic locations, like the respondents area of interests during a football match can give the researcher valuable insights about the how a user will perceive the ads displayed on the side of the field as compared to other possible locations. This will assist the company to come out with more effective and efficient ads.


Brands can use eye-tracking in a myriad of ways: to evaluate their products, packaging designs, advertising, websites, mobile apps and online and offline shopping behaviour, in order to optimise the customer experience. It’s possible to measure both attention to brands and their key messages as well as the ease or difficulty of store navigation.

When we combine visual behavior data using Eye Tracking with contextual information related to any advertisement like the respondent’s demographic data, and the respondent’s self-declared data, it is possible to build up a rich picture of the overall consumer engagement with the advertisement in terms of both behavior and underlying opinions. This data helps us better understand the viewer. It helps us determine what marketing messages work for viewers and what marketing messages leave them cold. As part of a multi modal marketing research study, eye tracking allows us the brands to determine if the viewers get their marketing message. If the viewer does get it, eye tracking studies will tell us “why”, what worked for them and if the viewer doesn’t get it, the visual behavior analysis will give us the data we need to determine why the advertisement has failed.