Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Eyes Have It

by Marian Hetherly
e-marketingclass contributor

As a marketer, wouldn’t you love to know what really goes on in the minds of your customers? Of course you would, but maybe their eyes would be more telling. There’s no doubt that a new era of eye tracking has begun. Marketers are now faced with the challenge of developing a better understanding of the data it produces and making good use of it.1

Eye tracking is a groundbreaking new way to monitor brainwaves and responses of individuals. The process involves the use of a device,
such as a video camera or sensor, for measuring eye positions and movements.2 The device may be mounted on a lightweight headset or
a ball cap.

The movements are then analyzed through computer applications for:
  • Scan pattern – indicates what features are noticed first, second and so forth
  • Dwell time – the amount of time spent looking at specific areas
  • Latency – the lapse of time between the presentation of an image and the time for it to be noticed
  • Fixations – the number of times a visitor’s eyes change from one area to another

Researchers into human consciousness believe that fixation points are where important cognition or thinking occurs. Marketing researchers take this a step further, deducing that fixations and the eye track point directly to likes, dislikes and preferences.3

The method described above is a relatively inexpensive method of eye tracking and the most common. However, there are two other methods that are more invasive.

A second method involves participants wearing special contact lenses that feature an embedded mirror or magnetic field sensor. Even very sensitive eye movements can be tracked. Still a third type of eye tracking places electrodes around a person’s eyes. The eyes have a steady electric potential field, which can be tracked to produce information on how the eyes are moving.

Eye tracking was once an undersized niche market, comprised of a few early adopters and university labs, but is now used in many diverse industries.4 Uses range from correction of vision problems and reading disorders to development of military systems that help helicopter pilots maneuver in battle.

The technology has been available to marketers for some years, but it has traditionally taken days or even weeks to receive reports. This time lag can be risky, especially when pre-testing new designs.

Today, eye-tracking reports are available almost immediately and being used to demonstrate returns on investments. The promise is that marketers will be able to meet the deep-down genuine, unspoken needs of consumers at a level of accuracy never before possible and without spending a fortune.

It would be nice to know exactly what parts of your painstakingly designed and planned website appealed to consumers. Are visitors drawn to the beautiful images, the engaging copy, or perhaps the small print.1 The new era of eye tracking can quickly provide quantifiable answers by following the journey a visitor’s eyes take around a website.

Marketers are only just beginning to explore the benefits of the technology, but experts believe the future looks promising. “This technology captures the objective behavioral response,” says Colin Johnson, CEO of Eyetools Inc., a San-Francisco-based software developer. “Our clients have documented a tenfold increase in click-throughs as a result of the proper application of the tools and methodology.”3

Online stockbroker E*Trade, auctioneer eBay, search engine Yahoo! and Microsoft are some of the early adopters of eye tracking. Google uses eye-tracking data whenever it redesigns its pages, in an attempt to maximize both consumer use and marketing opportunities. Its data reveals that most people concentrate on the first two links of a page.

However, Anthony House, a public affairs manager for Google, warns that eye tracking should not be used as a marketer’s only research tool. Reports often need skillful interpretation. Is the website successful? Do people understand the content? Can new users find what they are looking for quickly? Eye tracking depends on what consumers hope to achieve, not just a standard eye movement, and many conclusions can be interpreted from the same data.

1 Campaign data reaches an eye level” by Ruth Mortimer, MarketingWeek, August 20, 2009.
2 Videoeyetracking.com
3 “Eye of the Buyer” by Richard F. May, a director of Japan Consumer Marketing Research Institute.
4 “Beyond the heat map” by Mike Bartels, Quirk’s Marketing Research Review, January 2009.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

More Money for Mobile

by Marian Hetherly
e-marketingclass contributor

If you yawn when you read another headline about mobile advertising and its ever-pending explosion, you’re surely not alone. It seems that year after year, experts are touting the mobile platform as the next big thing that needs to be on top of every marketer’s mind. This year is no different, but there are a few indications that 2010 might actually be the stage for mobile advertising’s coming out party.1

ABI Research released a report on July 8 predicting that the amount of dollars spent by U.S. advertisers on mobile device advertising will quadruple in five years. As more people buy smartphones and tablets, the report says spending on mobile advertising will increase from its current $313 million to $1.2 billion in 2015, or a 35% increase.

“More and more will access the mobile internet,” ABI Research Practice Director Neil Strother told International Business Times. “They are using apps on these devices, spending time in front of screens. You want to go where audience is. If they are shifting their behavior to mobile audience—and they are—you want to do the same.”

Other factors driving the shift to mobile advertising are faster networks and devices that allow advertisers to run more interactive ads, affordable data plans and content from videos, music, games and social media networks. The benefits of mobile ads are ease of tracking a user’s location, a booming user base and all the advantages of traditional online ads.2

ABI’s estimates are low compared to those issued last September by eMarketer, which put mobile advertising at $593 million in 2010 compared to $25 billion for total online advertising3–and that was before the release of the iPad, which has generated strong demand. Juniper Research is even more optimistic globally. Juniper estimates that worldwide mobile advertising will have exceeded $6 billion in 2014, but this still equates to just 1.2% of total worldwide ad expenditures.

Although the estimates may vary, one thing is certain: a long-predicted Madison Avenue milestone finally arrived this year. Outsell’s annual advertising and marketing study, released in March, revealed that U.S. advertisers will spend more on digital media in 2010 than on print. Of the $368 billion marketers are planning to spend this year, 32.5% will go toward digital compared to 30.3% to print. “It’s a watershed moment,” Outsell Vice President Chuck Richard told Forbes magazine.4

Meanwhile, Pew Research released a survey in May that said 40% of Americans use wireless internet through mobile phones.2 However, ComScore estimates only 5.4 million Americans search the Web on their devices on a near-daily basis. That compares to 214 million people searching the Web generally.3 Millennial Media expects the U.S. mobile Web audience to reach 100 million unique users in 2010, which is equal to about half of the total Web audience.1

Who will suffer from the advance of mobile advertising? Television networks, potentially, if the caliber of big-brand advertising continues to be high. As the mobile audience is likely to fragment among applications, big Internet portals also may be at risk.3

However, not all marketers are convinced that mobile advertising will deliver on all the promises. Kevin Ryan, the former CEO of online advertising company DoubleClick and the founder and chairman of high-end retailer Gilt Groupe, told the Wall Street Journal that although people want to hear that mobile advertising will be huge, the screen is still too small to attract a significant portion of advertising dollars. “Even today there is almost no mobile advertising.” said Ryan. The iPad is the first mobile device he’s seen that could deliver compelling advertising to consumers.5

1“Google + IPad = Mobile Advertising Boom in 2010?” by Jason Hahn, DM Confidential.
2“Mobile Advertising Poised to Surge” by Gabriel Perna, International Business Times, July 8, 2010.
3“Apple’s Next Disruption: Advertising” by Martin Peers, Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2010.
4“Digital Lift-Off” by Dirk Smillie, Forbes, March 8, 2010.
5“Are Mobile Ads the Next Big Thing? Maybe Not,” Wall Street Journal, May 10, 2010.