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Neuromarketing: How to Unlock Shopper Attention Online

Mike Farrell

Data can tell retailers a lot about the shoppers who click their ads and purchase their products. But until recently, retailers have had to make an educated guess about why shoppers make a purchase. We still can’t read shoppers’ minds, but developments in neuromarketing are helping retailers understand how their messaging impacts shoppers on a scientific level and use those insights to capture greater attention online and develop more effective marketing campaigns.

In the latest episode of Retail Uncharted, we spoke with Prince Ghuman co-founder of PopNeuro.com and author of Blindsight: The (Mostly) Hidden Ways Marketing Reshapes or Brains and explored how neuromarketing can potentially revolutionize the way retailers approach online advertising. 

Moderated by Sidecar Senior Product Manager Mike Perkupka, and featuring Sidecar Senior Director of Integrated Digital Strategy Mike Farrell, the conversation reveals simple ways retailers of all sizes can integrate neuromarketing into their sales strategy today.During the podcast we asked Prince:

  • What is neuromarketing?
  • What type of retailers can benefit from a neuromarketing approach?
  • How can neuromarketing help retailers capture shoppers’ limited attention online?
  • What type of data is most valuable for retailers to better understand shoppers online?
  • How does the way retailers implement neuromarketing change when they think about different marketing platforms like Amazon and Facebook?
  • How has technology and e-commerce altered the way shoppers consume?
  • How is data and personalization changing the shopper-consumer relationship?
  • How do you see e-commerce evolving in the future?

Top Sound Bites

(edited for brevity and clarity)

What neuromarketing is:

Prince Ghuman: Neuromarketing at its very core is applying neuroscience to marketing. Sometimes people get confused with the difference between neuroscience and psychology, and you may even hear me use it interchangeably. So just to draw the line between there, psychology is more behavior focused, whereas neuroscience, you try to get down to the core of what’s happening in the brain as much as possible.

More importantly, with neuroscience, you’re able to look at some universal human truths.  What makes us like things? What makes us make decisions every single day? What part of our brain drives those things?  What does the brain tell us about how we hate, how we defend our favorite products, our political affiliations, our favorite basketball teams? Applying all of that brain science to marketing is neuromarketing.

How neuromarketing can help retailers capture attention online:

Prince Ghuman:  I think this starts with the foundational understanding of how attention works in the brain. Attention can be put into two buckets. The neuroscientists call these buckets exogenous and endogenous. Essentially, it means, “Am I internally driven or externally driven?” 

Let’s break that down. When you go to a grocery store, you have a grocery list in hand, that’s endogenous. You know exactly what you’re looking for. And that is all you’re going to pay attention to. If you go to the mall to kill an hour or two, that’s exogenous. What’s around in the environment is going to drive your attention.

A great example would be, if you are selling replacement car parts because a consumer’s car broke down, and he can’t drive it the next day. That’s the endogenous example. The consumer is looking for that specific car part. You can write ad copy to cater to that need.

Now, imagine if your website sells something that people browse as a nice-to-have product. Then you have to optimize for that level of attention that is a little bit more open to what’s in the environment, digital or otherwise. 

How shopper attention can vary across different online platforms:

Prince Ghuman: When we’re on Facebook or instagram, we’re on social. We’re in exogenous mode. We’re just hanging out and browsing without any goal in mind, besides liking things, besides being entertained. The ad copy for your social media ad should reflect that. It should try harder to grab attention. At the same time, it’ll be technically easier to grab attention because they’re in discover mode.

When it’s endogenous, that’s like using a search engine. We can go back to the car example. I need a new radiator for my car. I’m looking for something very specific. So you better cater your advertising to that specific need.

Mike Farrell:

One other thing that I’ll add to that is that all of our retail clients are dollars and cents focused. So their goals and their budgets are tightly managed, and there’s a lot of high expectation around measurement. One of the things that we’re often trying to hammer home with our clients is the fact that not every one of those platforms is used to capture customers in the same way. So you have to customize the goals that you set for those things.

A lot of times a retailer might come and say, “I want a five to one return. I don’t care what platform we’re on. I want a five to one return.” And a lot of times we have to say that, “Listen, Facebook, Instagram, those are different places. You’re not going to get the max return on a given channel. That channel is used for something completely different.” And you need to manage those expectations when you’re setting goals there as well.

On the future of neuromarketing in retail:

Prince Ghuman:

I think one thing that I would love for listeners to walk away with that is neuromarketing is not intimidating. It can be, but it isn’t. I think the most intimidating part of it is a large amount of work it takes to understand it. And the biggest thing is there is a value in understanding it. It’s going to affect your ability to market foundationally. It’s the same thing as A/B testing will foundationally change the way you market. Neuromarketing has the ability to have that type of a foundational impact. 

The hardest aspect of neuromarketing has been that you couldn’t get this information. And that has really been my work. Everything that I have learned over the last 10, 12 years, I have put into Blindsight

Neuromarketing is the future, but it doesn’t have to be this intimidating future. We’ve written this book to feel like a dozen or so books wrapped into one. The ROI on understanding psychology of consumers is through the roof. That’s my biggest urge. Don’t let neuromarketing be something that is intimidating and please pick up Blindsight and check it out. And I’m telling you, you’re going to have a lot of specific science-based A/B testing ideas that’ll help you convert shoppers better.

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