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Traditionally, Biometrics has been constrained to the realms of neuroscience classrooms, physiological psychology departments, and UX/UI circles.

Yet, there are an increasing number of companies who are realizing the wealth of information that biometrics can produce. Companies such as Expedia are pairing this data with website usability tests to deliver hoards of information, and give themselves an invaluable edge over competition. Expedia remains a major player in the extremely competitive online travel website business, in a large part because of their embrace of such a methodology.

A recent Bloomberg profile on Expedia explored how they’re using using biometrics in their usability lab to learn how people’s psyches play into their travel booking patterns. Namely, what excites them? Planning a vacation is an imaginative experience which teems with visions of sitting on beaches sipping colorful and exotic cocktails; yet, a website’s booking process, configuration, and search process, can quickly hamper these visions of tropical splendor. In place of clicking to book a trip, people get kicked off of screens and redirected to mind-numbing task pages where they’re required to search for the optimal number, and, ultimately, pre-pay for said experience.

So, Expedia is seeking to learn how they can maintain that emotional high which seizes people prior to booking a trip, and retain it throughout the checkout experience. What are they using to accomplish this task? Biometrics.

Wait, you can’t be serious? Biometrics?

Many of us associate biometrics with companies’ health-screening days. The biometrics we’re talking about here are slightly different.

In market research, here’s the rundown of how it works:

  • A Sample is recruited and brought to a focus group facility or market research setting
  • The participant is asked to don galvanic skin response sensors on one hand (Sounds pretty cool right?)
  • They’re then asked to surf through a site. They may be self-directed so that the research team can see how they naturally navigate through their experience, or they may be sitting next to a researcher, who asks them questions while the use the site
  • Contingent on the technology implemented, they will either have their responses and eye movement captured through video, or attached face sensors

That’s it. Pretty straightforward if you’re a participant in the study. After the lab, a thorough market research company will interview the participant and go through a debriefing session to encapsulate the experience in the subject’s own words. The final results are then added to the data pile, which will later be organized and analyzed by the firm commissioning the study.

So let’s not downplay what a market research firm learns through biometrics

Although the study’s process may appear straightforward, the data that the qualitative research biometrics produce is anything but simple. The research team is given reams of data points that pinpoint electrodermal activity (which is used to measure the changes in autonomic sympathetic arousal that are integrated with cognitive and emotional states indicating stress responses); facial expression emotion analysis; eye tracking; and heat mapping. Once analyzed, the data points display how people react, on a physiological level, to website layout, content, and specific experiences or tasks that they’re asked to do. The results are fascinating and give amazing insight into the emotional landscape that drives what people navigate to, click on, and are pulled-in by.

Here at InterQ, being in-person researchers, our task is to take this technology and reinforce it with qualitative research as much as we can. Biometric UX testing produces alluring spreadsheet data, but our real goal is to discover the thinking behind those emotions-spelled-out-through-numbers. Do the participant’s self-reported insights match up to what we see in the physiological markers? How were they processing the experience during the task? What is the story behind these numbers, and how can that translate into measurably improving the content, website, or user journey?

Integrating these insights is where the real magic happens, and it’s a game changer in terms of how it affects outputs in design, be it on a website, software program, or app. Expedia has learned the power of it, and it’s helped them stay on top of the game in the online travel website industry.

Interested in biometrics and qualitative research? Request a proposal today >