Can neuromarketing play a role in shopper marketing? We think so.

Ask a shopper what conditions will most likely make her buy something, and she will probably focus on the obvious – product choice, good value, or convenience. But in many cases, she won’t be able to say what really made her shell out her hard-earned cash because most of the factors that prompted her to make a purchase acted on her subconsciously.

As part of the ongoing visual merchandising work we’re doing for a local Fortune 100 retailer, our Charlotte-based shopper marketing agency has the opportunity to use insights from brain tracking tools to help our client better understand in-store consumer choice. From the positioning of products on shelves to the font on packaging to the color of in-aisle category signage, many of the most influential factors affecting shopping behavior hit below the level of consumer awareness.

It’s easy for retailers to keep track of what we buy, but a lot harder to figure out why. Enter a nascent field called neuromarketing, which uses the tools of neuroscience to determine why we prefer some products over others – and how the in-store environment affects our path to purchase.

Neuromarketing uses both EEG (electroencephalography) or fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) technology to probe the nooks and crannies of the subconscious, but EEG is better suited to tracking the mind of the shopper while they move around in a retail environment. For starters, the MRI is bulkier, harder to administer, and expensive. Far more important, however, is the fact that an EEG measures the brain's electrical activity on the scalp, while an MRI records changes in blood flow inside the brain. This means that an EEG reading can be done almost in real time, while an MRI's has a five-second delay.

Although the confluence of shopper marketing and neuroscience is complicated, the underlying premise is simple. You don’t want the brain to work too hard when consumers are shopping. You want auto-pilot. As soon as we start to stop and think, we are having to burn up more energy and any delay can stop people buying things. The worst phrase any sales associate can hear is ‘I’ll think about it.’

So we're excited about the opportunity to move beyond the traditional market research tools of shopper marketing (focus groups, shop-alongs, etc.) and help our client find the tiny elements of the shopping process that might be either obstacles or triggers. It's a brave new world, and birdsong gregory is excited to be a part of it.

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