Using Biometrics to Improve User Experience

October 7, 201911min

Data-driven analysis has been the cornerstone of our understanding of digital performance, from campaigns and websites, to all the components that contribute to them.

Analysis and the production of objective data to demonstrate performance has been one of digital’s greatest strengths since its inception. Yet, with all this talk about how our digital assets have performed, isn’t it about time we take a step back and think about how people actually feel about our content?

After all, it’s estimated that  over a third of users will stop engaging with a website if the content or design is perceived as unattractive or clumsily laid out. What’s more, with increasingly distracted audiences, creating an intuitive and positive user experience is more important than ever before.

Biometrics’ 101

Do customers understand what we’re trying to communicate? Do our values resonate with audiences? Does our content excite? Are people even watching our videos and, if they are, what keeps them engaged?

For all these questions and more, biometric testing gives us an answer. As marketers, we need to step away from the constant ‘push’ techniques that we’ve become so reliant on and start thinking more about our customers. It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But until now, we haven’t had a reliable way of understanding and measuring human emotion. For the first time ever, we can tell not just what people think about our content, but how it makes them feel.

Biometrics refers to the measurement of life, or more specifically, the scientific evaluation of human traits and emotions. The technology itself isn’t new. In fact, it’s been around for years but has mainly been utilised in the security and pharmaceutical industries.

The technology has been slowly establishing itself within the mainstream conscious as over 75 percent of consumers have used or experienced biometric technology. As this groundbreaking technology has matured, more digital marketers are investing in the opportunities it provides to examine the effectiveness of their marketing techniques. By utilising high-end hardware and software, biometrics can monitor and record a user’s biological reaction to certain stimuli.

With 87 percent of marketing budgets predicted to be spent on digital by 2022 and businesses investing so much money in their digital marketing, going one step further to analyse the user experience of that investment is just good sense – particularly as 40 percent of users would abandon a web page of any kind if it takes longer than three seconds to load.

One of the most significant advantages of digital marketing is the ability to measure performance across a variety of metrics. Layer on top of this user insights and thorough surveys or interviews, and what you get is a clear picture of what your digital marketing is doing and who it’s interacting with. The real challenge comes when you try to bridge this gap by understanding the connection between data and user behaviour.

The capabilities of biometric technology are unparalleled, allowing marketers to analyse eye movement and facial expressions in order to assess an individual’s emotional responses to a particular stimulus. Facial mapping technology comes into play by tracking any sudden facial movements, such as a furrowed brow or curved lip, and categorising them into the implied emotional response.

As well, galvanic skin response (GSR) technology provides the ability to measure a user’s emotional arousal to what they are seeing on screen. This works by monitoring changes in sweat gland activity, therefore showing whether users are annoyed or pleased with their stimuli. The fact is that emotions play an enormous part in our purchasing decisions, so measuring this metric is important for brands to see how people react to their buying process.

Biometrics and the user experience

One way to measure a user’s response to a web page is to see it through their eyes – not via surveys, but by actually tracking their eye movements and identifying responses the user may not even be aware of. This kind of testing highlights what content immediately draws their attention and where they may look first on a website’s landing page, as well as demonstrating whether a user has read the entire copy of a webpage, or just skimmed their eyes across it.

Measuring time spent on a webpage is important, as most users spend an average of seven seconds on a page before deciding whether to exit the site or not. Eye-tracking helps to identify key areas of interest, as well as areas that might need a little extra attention.

In addition to eye-tracking, being able to analyse the facial expressions of audiences provides additional insight on digital content by looking at their immediate emotional responses – whether this be delight, confusion, or disgust. Measuring this provides valuable insight into the user’s journey and how each stage of that journey made them feel.

It was recently reported that 52 percent of users say the main reason they wouldn’t return to a website is due to the aesthetics of a particular page. By using biometrics to measure what part of a company’s website is troublesome or off-putting for users, marketers have an edge over the competition as they are able to determine which type of user experience (UX) they are delivering and how this can be tailored to give users what they want and what they expect.

This is especially important as only one percent of users say ecommerce websites meet their expectations every time, meaning most websites are failing to address the needs of their users. The customer journey not only includes the way a customer interacts with a web page, but also how they feel emotionally whilst doing so. If a brand’s website has been difficult to navigate and the customer becomes annoyed, they will have a negative association with that brand, which could result in audiences turning to competitors.

Biometrics & ROI

As brands continue to invest heavily in their digital marketing efforts, having the ability to track how effective those efforts have been is paramount. Measuring performance is a vital component of digital marketing, using various different methods to build a picture of how content is performing and with whom it’s interacting. Data and user behaviour are difficult to measure at the same time, and therefore it can be difficult to interpret results from user interviews and insights.

As the industry continues to look for new ways to measure the effectiveness of their digital content and places more emphasis on how to improve user experiences, it seems that the answer lies within the advanced insights that biometrics provides. Results from biometric studies can be used to create more conversions and purchases for a brand, as the user experience can be reviewed and refined in line with the emotional response of users found within the measurements.

This data is effectively the key that can open the door to optimal user engagement.


David Wharram

David Wharram

David Wharram is CEO of Coast Digital.




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