By Joanna Jones
The theme of “biometrics” is topical at the moment – particularly in the news cycle as it relates to privacy. More and more technologies are moving toward biometric identification, which matches biological characteristics, such as eye retina scans, facial features, or thumbprints to verify a person’s identity. Privacy discussions aside, this is one use of biometrics, but in market research, when we talk about biometrics, we’re not referring to collecting people’s bio-markers as a means of identification.
Biometrics in market research
In market research, we use biometrics to understand how people physiologically react to stimuli, experiences, websites, or ideas. Often, what people say doesn’t fully match their bodies’ physical reactions, or a physiological reaction happens before someone is able to name what they’re feeling. For this reason, biometrics is an extremely useful tool in market research.
Types of studies in market research that biometrics are useful for
For technology verification purposes, biometrics helps match a person’s physical characteristics to identity. In market research, we may want to understand how people’s eyes scan a physical space (such as a grocery aisle simulated on a large screen), or a website or phone screen. Using biometric eye tracking, we’re able to see where people’s eyes are drawn. We can then follow up with questions to understand their perceptions of why their eyes gravitate to certain areas over others. One can imagine how useful this can be for UX design purposes, grocery shelf placement, and app design – to name a few use-cases.
Physiological measurements, using data that includes galvanic skin response (GSR) and heartrate, are other common biometric markers that we use in market research. With GSR, people are hooked up to sensors that measure tiny changes in sweat gland activity. This indicates changes in an emotional state, and paired with heart rate data, these metrics help us understand how people are emotionally aroused by design, questions, settings, and ideas. If we’re doing market research to investigate how people feel about a website layout, a simulated shopping experience, a physical design idea, or a topic, we can gather GSR and heartrate data to pair with qualitative questions. With these two methods combined, we’ll understand what people physiologically react to, and through interview questions, have a deeper glimpse into how this affects their perceptions of the item we’re asking them to give us feedback about.
Using biometrics in your next market research study
If you’re wondering whether it would make sense to pair biometric data with your next market research study, here are a few checklist questions to see if biometrics would offer added pertinent data:
- Do you want to understand how people scan a screen, see a shopping environment, or navigate through a digital journey?
- Are you trying to understand where and why people feel stressed when they’re using a product or service?
- Is understanding how people respond emotionally a crucial part of the product design?
If you answered “yes” to any of these above questions, incorporating biometrics into the market research design would add valuable data that would go beyond what interview questions alone can provide.