Dr. Stephen Sands: Recording Brain Waves at the Supermarket

On April 9, 2012
The first Neuromarketing World Forum 2012 (Amsterdam) gathered around 100 people interested in neuromarketing from an academic or business point of view, from top neuroscientific researchers to commercial parties that discussed the key challenges and opportunities of using neuromarketing tools to enhance and add value to market research.
Thanks to Neuromarketing Science & Business Association, this is the second released video material of the Neuromarketing World Forum 2012 (the first one included the presentation of Professor Richard Silberstein on Messages to the long-term memory of the audience). Below you can find Dr. Stephen Sands‘ (Chairman, Co-Founder and Chief Science Officer for Sands Research Inc.) presentation from this event:
Dr. Stephen Sands focused his presentation on recording brain waves at the super market and about what happens in the brain when people spot an item of interest, grab it, examine it and then place it in the shopping basket. Using 68 channel full spectrum EEG technologies, they quantify: Overall Engagement, Emotional Valence (left and right asymmetry, inferior frontal gyrus), Cognition, Attention, Visual, Motor, Memory, Recognition. Their suite of Neurometrics, which are time-locked with the marketing stimulus and the eye movement of respondents, are designed to segment different types of brain responses that are evoked. They also study responses evoked by eye fixations (most of them last for 200 ms). These responses provide an unique and entirely non-verbal data on brain processing in the retail environment, moment-by-moment.
The challenges to recordings include the fact that participants are moving freely without any restrictions in the store, the electrodes must be firmly attached and have a low impedance, movement artifact can be significant, eye-movement recordings are critical to success / failure of EEG, data is massive and it is not easily automated.
For a study, the subject carried a backpack with a notebook (contains an EEG amplifier and tools for removing eye moving artifacts) and used an EEG cap (64 channels of Ag/AgCl Electrodes) and a Binocular Tracking system modified for mobile recordings, that was able to track where the subject was looking and the depth of the look. Recordings have been collected from 250 subjects that visited stores in 8 major markets (2-3 stores were visited within a given market area) across the USA. At Sands Research, they analyzed specific eye fixations on products. If a subject choose to purchase a certain product, they went back on the video recording to find the first eye movement to that particular product and analyzed the brain activity for that moment.
The first look that identifies the product is the one that can determine buying and takes place in around 100-200 milliseconds. Examining 17.969 eye fixations, the study concluded that most eye movements are to rejected items (82.44%).
Results also showed that alcohol produces the highest neuro-engagement score NES (so alcohol is the most activating stimuli), followed by candies, frozen desserts and different products placed in front aisles. Lowest neuro-engagement score was computed for fruits and vegetables. As for the time spend on each category, meats scored the highest time and candies, coffee and tee scored the lowest time.
Dr. Sands reported that there are no differences between males and females on their behavior when choosing products, the difference shows up only in the products they choose, and that only 5% of eye looking are related to displays – which means that people will look at displays only if they have something special. The emotional valence associated with the first eye movement for the product is the biggest predictor of whether it is going to be bought or not (group effects). There were important differences between the shopping list the subjects prepared and what they actually bought. The correlation coefficient between what people want to buy and what they actually buy is around 0.2 and many times it cannot be used for predictions. When people reject a product, a reversal between the asymmetry between left and right frontal lobe is noticed, and the emotional valence is -14%. The activation of visual cortex, precuneus and frontal lobe as a first emotional response are used to make the buying predictions.

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