Mar 24 · 4 min read

The secret behind the Neuroscience of understanding your customer

The Nike ad, “Dream Crazier”, gained a whopping 29 million views on Twitter and 7.5 million views on YouTube in just under one week. Nike consistently delivers ads and products that outperform their competitors. Coincidence? I think not.

“Mind reading”, “brain manipulation” — whatever you want to call it, Nike and thousands of other companies are using techniques to design products, interfaces, and experiences for their customers. The collection of these methods is based in neuroscience. Scientists and designers collaborate to understand the composition of the brain and nervous system to understand what is the scientifically greatest user experience and optimal design for a customer.

An overview of neuroscience techniques

Let’s take a moment to understand the areas that neuroscience research is used within UX and UI. Writing for Designers has a neat infographic, which shows the various categories regarding this:

Accordingly, neuroscientists are increasingly collaborating with UX / UI designers to conduct experiments with regards to the above areas. For example, a laboratory type setting might measure people’s heart rates to various forms of typography, code the responses and then measure it.

The Harvard Business Review along with Moran Cerf of the Northwestern University developed a matrix showing the various neuroscience techniques:

In theory, these neuroscience techniques, if used correctly, should yield sophisticated user interfaces and customer experiences 100% of the time. A software company, for example, may have used a series of EEG, eye-tracking and facial coding techniques to understand the needs of their clients to personalize their solutions.

Examples of Companies using neuroscience for UX / UI:

Let’s look at some known examples of where neuroscience was used to improve UX / UI or should have been used:

  • Fritos & Lays — A study was done to understand the success behind Cheetos. Using EEG, it was found that customers loved the tingly feeling of their fingers turning orange (i.e. the orange dust on the fingertips). Using this data, Cheetos double down on their product in ads by exacerbating the cheesiness of Cheetos, which subsequently saw their sales rise.
  • Yahoo — In response to needing an increase in consumer on their search engine, Yahoo used an EEG cap to understand the effect a ‘dancing advert’ had on its consumers. As customers were watching the ad, scientists could track stimulation in the limbic system and track the emotions throughout the ad and optimize its effectiveness thereafter.
  • Ebay — In partnership with NeuroFocus, Ebay tested brain wave activity of their e-commerce offering and found that speed was the most important feature for their customers. This provided Ebay with data to optimize payment speed for various other e-commerce sites.
  • Pymetrics — Pyremetics partnered with the Luminosity app to design a set of neuroscience games to test potential candidates to be hired for important roles within an organization. The number of candidates hired nearly doubled as a result. Pymetrics, in turn, charges businesses per applicant hired.

How would it work in practice?

  1. To understand user-interfaces

Neuroscience is not a fun theory to marvel at with no action. EyeQuant, for example, uses eye-tracking technology to analyze a page called JustFab, and results are below:

The technology produces a heatmap to understand the frequency and sequence of eye movements upon landing on this page. Insights from this type of study shown to reduce the number of clicks needed to navigate an application, software or web page. Because it measures user-friendliness, it would indicate if any easy it indicates any easy guide features or system prompts is needed.

2. To develop customer journeys

fRMI scans are used to develop customer journeys. Insights from these scans reveal when brain patterns are favorable. Consequently, customer journey maps are developed according to where the brain is most frequently positively active.

3. To develop training material

Numerous neuroscience studies have also gone into understanding the importance of language in its various forms — written, video, spoken. For example, valuable insights can be extrapolated to understand and measure the effectiveness of training material. Through studying the brain, training material can be optimized for effectiveness and thereby reducing cost and time. Furthermore, it allows understanding if the optimum medium is being used for the type of training you are delivering. The appropriate type of training can be easily identified — whether it should be system based, classroom training or online learning. Training can also be effectively delivered with better use of language, storytelling, and analogies relevant to work examples.

Traditional techniques for understanding customer needs can be boring and outdated. Neuroscience techniques provide an empirical approach to analyzing the exact customer needs by scanning brain images, eye tracking technology and so forth.

Digital Adoption 101

Exploring topics of interest for organizations undergoing digital adoption, such as: digital transformation, training and onboarding, user experience, and the customer experience.


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Global Leader in Digital Adoption Solutions. On a mission to simplify #UX for every software & website out there. Follow us @WalkMeinc, https://www.walkme.com/

Digital Adoption 101

Exploring topics of interest for organizations undergoing digital adoption, such as: digital transformation, training and onboarding, user experience, and the customer experience.

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