Monday, February 20, 2017

In the (tracked) eye of the beholder

This sort of looks like an ancient torture device.  Or something you'd strap into at the ophthalmologist's office.  But it's actually an eye tracker unit.  Eye tracking involves measuring and responding to human eye motion.  It's not new technology, but its application for digital marketers is increasing in frequency.  And as technology gets smarter, devices will get sleeker, sexier, subtler.  Invisible.  Cue nervous laughter.

Eyes are windows to the soul, and marketers are eager to open the shades. There are lots of ways consumers can misrepresent their preferences when directly asked by a brand.  Or just not represent their preferences because they don't feel like it.  But eye tracking is effort-free, unconscious.  It feels honest, authentic.  Eyes don't lie.  Especially when they don't know they're being watched.  This is all very meta.

This TechCrunch piece nicely summarizes the potential eye tracking provides to digital marketers:

"First, it makes a device aware of what the user is interested in at any given point in time.  And second, it provides an additional way to interact with content, without taking anything else away.  That means it increases the communication bandwidth between the user and the device."  

Some of the interesting demands and use cases for eye tracking technology referenced in the article include:

VR.  Headsets can get smarter to know what our eyes are drawn to and give us more of those things.  The idea would be the headsets drive dynamic, personalized storytelling, based on our eye movements.  We wouldn't have to look around in all directions and piece things together ourselves.  Marketers could use the collective data gathered to optimize content for future experiences (or in real-time, on that personalized scale).

Advertising.  Check this out:

Advertisers who employ eye tracking technology can get a better sense of what targets are looking at, and how intently.  This will help inform content creation moving forward, to make informed decisions around what works and doesn't work.  It would be really interesting to use eye tracking technology across different segments and see how different targets respond differently to the same piece of collateral.

Eye tracking in advertising should also drive better measurement, accountability, and standards across the industry.  If I accidentally click on an ad, but immediately leave the environment because my click was an accident, my eyes would show that.  My interaction could be seen for what it was: hollow, not creating value for the brand.

Market Research.  If images of a new product are shown to prospective customers, marketers can follow their eyes and see what parts of the product they're most drawn to. Marketers can also track eye movement when someone is interacting with a physical product and use all of these combined learnings to impact the product development cycle.

At its core, eye tracking is about better understanding consumers to create better products, environments, and experiences for the end user.  It comes from a place of putting the customer first.  But it also has the potential to feel pretty creepy.  

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