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Marketers should leverage neuroscience to better understand the mobile consumer: report

Digging deeper into understanding what consumers feel and care about during the mobile purchase cycle is crucial in developing mobile user experiences, according to a report from Plastic Mobile.

Plastic Mobile?s ?The Science Behind Mobile Design? report looked at three mobile applications to compare consumer response to the purchase journey. It applied neuroscience principles to mobile commerce to determine consumers? emotional reactions to better understand user experience.

?We?ve been building up apps for about five and a half years,? said Melody Adhami, president of Plastic Mobile, New York. ?We make guesses as to how we think users are using it, but to actually measure their engagement through this neuromarketing study then we can get an idea if what we are doing is making an impact and getting the brand impression across properly. We can measure these things.

?There are two key takeaways,? she said. ?Number one is about studies in general. People do surveys, user testing, focus groups. What we learned is that people say one thing and they feel something different. When you are measuring what is happening with the brain activity, [and] getting different results. People say things because they have to say it or they think it will make someone happy.

?The other key thing finding is the importance of usability and design and the engagement that users had. What we would deem as uncluttered, less steps to completion, is actually measuring well with users when we measure brain activity.?

The study looked at 30 participants in March 2013.

Neuroscience at work
Plastic mobile used an EEG neuro-headset and eye-tracking glasses to measure the attentional and emotional activity of the user to determine what they were looking at first, last, most and least.

The study used the apps from Pizza Pizza, Best Buy and Hyatt Hotels to better understand user experience.

Plastic mobile divided the purchase journey into five steps: download and open app, browse products and services, select a predetermined product or service and add to cart, and go to checkout and purchase by entering personal information.

On the Pizza Pizza app, participants had to order a medium pizza and select three toppings. On the Best Buy app, they had to buy a waterproof digital camera and on Hyatt Hotels they had to book a hotel room for five nights in New York.

Participants began the study with an initial survey and then were given one to two minutes to navigate each app freely while wearing eye-tracking glasses. Plastic Mobile used the eye tracking to obtain qualitative insights about first impression and most visited pages.

Then participants followed step-by-step instructions for each app, and Plastic Mobile used eye tracking and EEG to obtain quantitative insights about brain reaction and visual attention. Participants also filled out a post-study survey at the end.

Each participant was instructed to bring their own iPhone 4, 4s or 5 for the experiment.

Key findings
According to the study, consumers liked checkout more than browsing, despite indicating the opposite in surveys.

In the Pizza Pizza app, emotional engagement was at 2 percent during browsing and at 100 percent during checkout. They were also most interested while opening the app, at 86 percent, and least interested as they confirmed their purchase at 48 percent.

In the Best Buy app, there was an emotional peak of 92 percent and a peak in attention of 56 percent when it was opened and a low of 16 percent engagement and 0 percent attention at selection.

In the Hyatt app, consumers were most engaged during the launch with 80 percent engagement and least emotionally engaged at checkout with 0 percent. There was a peak in attention at open at 41 percent and a low at confirmation at 8 percent.

However, participants' own responses did not match up with the EEG results.

Sixty-two percent of participants said their favorite part of the Pizza Pizza app experience was selection, and 55 percent said checkout. However the EEG monitoring showed selection as the second lowest in terms of emotional engagement at 19 percent and the second lowest for attention at 56 percent.

Similarly, 62 percent of participants said their favorite part of the Best Buy app was selection, but their emotional engagement was at its lowest at 16 percent.

It seems that consumers may not actually say what they think or mean. Browsing may not actually get consumers excited.

The report also found that apps can influence overall brand perception.

From this report, Plastic Mobile offers a few suggestions to marketers: Create quick and easy user experiences, use screen real estate wisely, leverage images for greater purposes, enable quick load times, and maintain user interest.

?Marketers do a lot of usability testing. We know when someone likes something,? said Salome Sallehy, marketing directing of Plastic Mobile. ?To be able to measure how much they are liking it and how deeply they are engaging, both emotionally and intentionally. That is valuable.

?Marketers get wrapped up in the big idea,? she said. ?This is what marketers need to pay attention to ? usability and design and the detail.  In mobile, IT and marketing overlap so much.

?This is an area where design and marketing need to be working closely together in order to deliver those details and that kind of experience that will make users happy. To understand how mobile elements are so different and understand the intricacies of that and to deliver to customer expectations, it is a different way of thinking for marketers.?

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York