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The Science of Shopping: Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience at Digiday Retail Summit

The world of retail is changing, but the market’s evolution presents numerous opportunities for all retailers—from e-commerce businesses to brick-and-mortar stores or a combination of the two. But how can retailers of all types anticipate the next set of changes coming their way? Some are identifying new purchasing patterns with consumer neuroscience.

On Jan. 25 2016, Dr. Carl Marci, chief neuroscientist and executive vice president of Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience, spoke on the role of emotions in retail environments at the Digiday Retail Summit in Laguna Beach, Calif. The summit looked at the opportunities and challenges of the modern consumer experience, considering all of the development in mobile commerce with digital and in-store synergies. Thought leaders from various brands explored the latest developments within retail.

Dr. Marci’s presentation, “Bricks and Clicks, Emotions in Retail,” discussed the complexity of the human brain and how the purchase process is changing, requiring retailers to be better equipped at addressing consumer needs given an evolving, complex e-commerce and traditional brick and mortar environment.

Personal relevance and emotional engagement are paramount. Retailers today must consider the entire path to purchase and understand how best to influence consumers along their buying journey. “It is important to create an experience for shoppers so that you create an emotional response, and get their reward pathways to fire so that consumers will want to come and buy again,” said Marci.

He described three important points within the shopper journey—“pretail”, “retail” and “post-tail” environments. In pretail, marketing communications and word of mouth experiences can help retailers make a connection outside of the commercial environment and generate an emotional response with consumers that is stored for future use. In retail, the emotional memory is retriggered and a buying opportunity occurs. Then, in post-tail, consumers bond with the product in a fulfillment experience. Importantly, during the post-tail experience, buyers also can become advocates, further setting up future buyers and reinforcing their own relationship to the brand, product or service.

“Each step along the path to purchase is an opportunity to make an emotional connection,” said Marci.

Dr. Marci also spoke about the importance of measuring emotions using the modern tools of consumer neuroscience along multiple touch-points during the purchase strategy—from marketing communications to shelf layouts, point-of-sale material and package design. By using tools such as eye tracking, EEG and biometrics, often combined with self-reporting, we can identify visual hot spots and blind spots and determine the levels of emotional impact to help clients make it easier for the consumer to process information on the path to purchase.

In speaking about clicks and the digital world, Dr. Marci noted that the bar is higher than ever, with more distractions as platforms and content proliferate. Each digital environment offers its own challenges from page layout to product visualization to integrating recommendations and reviews. Emotion matters in any environment.

“Relevance brings people in, directs them to content, and creates emotionally strong journeys. Irrelevance and boredom push people away; they retreat from the content and respond to their own thoughts,” said Marci.