Neuromarketing study undertaken of 3 e-commerce sites in the fashion industry. Summary of most noteworthy insights revealed.
Insights on usability and user experience achieved in the neuromarketing study done on three popular online shops.
At Flat 101 we often have highly varied requests from our clients, but among my favourites is “I want an online shop like the one X has”, with X being a company listed on the IBEX 35. My first thought is obviously “I hope they have the same budget that X invested in its e-commerce site so we can develop the site“ (since when we work for this type of client, we know the type of budgets they’re working with). Normally, with the clients mentioned above, they don’t have this type of budget.
However, regardless of these requests and joking about them, there is the very human tendency to copy (or be inspired by) what others do. The generalised thinking that if X is doing it, being the great company that it is, it has to be well done and therefore must be the best solution.
This is something that we even ask ourselves sometimes: is their search engine implementation working well? Why have they set up the filters like that in the latest site redesign, etc.
As for me, for quite a while I had been wanting to validate and break down certain practices by renowned e-commerce sites; to learn what works well for them as far as usability and the user experience are concerned.
To do this we have conducted a neuromarketing study where the emotional unconscious response of users is measured by asking them to perform basic tasks involved in making an online purchase. The selected sector, fashion, and the online shops to be evaluated and compared: Zara, H&M and ASOS. The results are quite interesting with some of them being surprising. Over a series of posts we’ll explain some of the insights revealed resulting from the study.
To measure the unconscious emotional response of the users when purchasing using each one of these e-commerce sites, we monitored their heart rate and skin perspiration using a biometric ring. This can be seen in the image below on the left hand of the user on the left who’s performing the test. These biological signals, through appropriate technology, are translated into metrics that can help us make business decisions: emotional activation, emotional impact, and time to perform a task.
Configuring the test environment to do neuromarketing research using a biometric ring on the users’ left hand. To the left, the user performing the test. To the right, the person in the field guiding the test and managing the software for the biometric ring. Performed at the Flat 101 facilities.
Emotional activation is the degree of activation produced in an organism when performing a task. It changes slowly and moves from rest to excitation. In a web usability study we can interpret emotional activation as the amount of stress the user suffers when faced with a task.
Emotional impact is instantaneous. It’s produced by endogenous or exogenous events while performing the task: locating what one was looking for: an attention grabbing image, something that catches our eye, etc.
For the first insight of the study, we’ll see what happened when the users browse the site looking for a specific category of the online shop. In this case, the section for men’s t-shirts. During the task, we find something that’s quite interesting. We can see two theories of usability represented at the subconscious level.
Hick’s law tells us that the time taken to make a decision increases as the number of alternatives does. In turn, there’s the so-called paradox of choice (Barry Schwartz), stating that a greater number of options available weakens our ability to make decisions.
As we said before, both effects were observed when we had users locate, starting from the homepage, the section of the shop where they could see “the whole catalogue of men’s t-shirts”. In the case of Asos, the users became highly stressed when they were in the navigation menu and were faced with multiple options that could possibly but not clearly represent the stated category.
In the following graph the level of emotional activation (level of stress) that was suffered by the users while performing the task and the time it took them to finish it is shown.
As you can see in the previous image, the most stress inducing online shop, and where they took longest, was Asos’. In the following video you can see how a user (representing typical user behaviour when performing this task during the test) is exploring multiple menu options unsure of which of the different menu options might display t-shirts: “new items: t-shirts”, “long sleeve shirts”, “t-shirts”, “sleeveless t-shirts”, etc.
Video of a user during the neuromarketing study trying to find the section of the shop for men’s t-shirts. Graphic representation of the paradox of choice and Hick’s law for an e-commerce site. (Enlarge the video to full screen to see it properly)
An interesting thing we learned was observing how Zara’s menu produced the opposite effect. It was easy to use and users performed the navigation task to internal sections of the website quickly and easily. I say it was something we learned because it had always seemed to me that Zara’s menu, often camouflaged by the interesting background images on the homepage may not stand out enough.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, would we conclude that Zara’s website is better than H&M’s or Asos’ for inducing less stress in users? Categorically the answer is NO, we simply would conclude that the way navigation is thought out and implemented to internal categories of the site is more suitable based on the stress levels it produces. However, for other tasks we asked the users to perform, Zara wasn’t the best site in terms of usability. We’ll find some other interesting surprises we’ll tell you about later on…
If you’ve found this insight interesting, don’t miss out on the next post where we reveal another thing we learned in the neuromarketing study carried out on these three fashion e-commerce sites.