Understanding Your Customers with Facial Coding
- Can facial expressions tell what your customers like?
- Does facial coding predict consumers’ buying decisions?
In face-to-face sales, skilled salespersons closely monitor the facial expressions of customers. They take cues from what they see to fine-tune their sales presentation. Some people are better than others at reading people’s faces. Recently, Neuromarketing testing firms have begun working on applying similar techniques in market research.
In an election in Mexico in 2012, a candidate experimented with this. A billboard was set up in a public place, showing an ad for a candidate. A camera hidden in the billboard observed people as they viewed the billboard. An artificial intelligence algorithm analyzed their facial expressions. The billboard was altered based on viewers’ emotional reactions until the campaign was satisfied with the responses.
Some Neuromarketing firms offer AI-based facial coding analysis. They study the emotional responses evoked by advertising and marketing materials. Does this work? Apparently, it can. How well? That depends on many factors. Should you adopt this technology in your own research? Perhaps, but the full story on this technology has not yet been written.
Advantages of Facial Coding in Neuromarketing
Our faces change constantly. Unconsciously, we reveal our emotions through our facial expressions. How we respond to marketing materials can predict our buying decisions.
- Inexpensive – Unlike fMRI or EEG studies, the entire process can be automated, and the equipment is not costly. As subjects view static or video marketing materials, the camera records their faces and the AI algorithms analyze their emotional responses. The data is relatively easy to interpret.
- Detection of Emotions – Happiness, disgust, surprise, fear, and surprise definitely show up on people’s faces as they watch television commercials or print ads.
- Design Improvement – By studying the apparent emotional responses by viewers, designs, layouts and content can be altered to produce the emotions desired.
Disadvantages of Automated Facial Coding
While facial coding studies appear to be useful for specific marketing efforts, it has many of the same drawbacks other Neuromarketing techniques face. Emotional responses, for example, are not necessarily causally linked to purchase decisions. It is even less clear which emotions lead to a decision to buy. That makes facial coding software results difficult to assess.
- Study subjects are not actual customers – Unless actual potential customers are recruited for a study, they do not necessarily represent the target audience for the marketing materials. Their emotional responses may not be what leads real customers to make purchase decisions.
- The test environment is artificial – The conditions for facial coding studies are not the same as those experienced by actual customers. Watching a TV commercial in a lab isn’t the same as watching the same commercial at home while drinking a beer.
- Emotions May Not Indicate Intent – Facial coding experiments do not necessarily indicate a subject’s intent to buy. For example, if a playful puppy appears in an ad, that might generate a happy expression that has nothing to do with the product or service being sold.
- Buying Decisions May Not Be Linked to Facial Response – While people’s facial expressions often reveal their emotional states, that state may not indicate anything useful in marketing or sales. A successful salesperson continually monitors expressions and adjusts techniques on the fly. Advertisements cannot do that.
Neuromarketing Consulting for Market Research
While all Neuromarketing techniques can be useful, all are not necessarily ideal for a specific situation. Using Neuroscience in sales and marketing requires strategies that take all factors into consideration, based on an overall understanding of how the brain functions. Many Neuromarketing companies that offer testing or test equipment and software to their clients may market what they offer as a “magic bullet.” There is no magic to Neuromarketing.
Before investing in any technology, a consultation with an experienced neuroscientist who has broad experience in marketing and sales is crucial. As the only Neuromarketing firm in the Midwest led by a Neuroscientist, we are always ready to consult with your company on the most effective course to take. Contact us before committing to any specific methods. We can help keep you from wasting money.