Tecnológico de MonterreyAre our consumption habits conscious?

Are our consumption habits conscious?

Are our consumption habits conscious?

Market research using neuromarketing aims at solving problems derived from consumption, as well as understanding consumer perception from neuronal activity.

By Gabriela Faz


With the arrival of the new millennium and new technologies, which we use practically in all areas of our lives every day, we might think that we have a different way of consuming the products and/or services we require. To be sure about this, we must question whether we have really changed and, above all, whether we are conscious consumers.

Therefore, it is fundamental to identify new markets and their behavior and read the information on the packaging and labels of the products we buy.

This is precisely the area of action and research pursued by Dr. Claudia Quintanilla Domínguez, a member of the Research Group with a Strategic Focus on Consumer Behavior and Conscious Marketing of the EGADE Business School.

“What interests us is consumer behavior,” shared Dr. Quintanilla, stating that one of the lines of research they are developing is based on how we make responsible consumption decisions. They are conducting studies on the use of nutrition labels on food products.

In this regard, the academic article “Development of a scale of use, comprehension, and attitudes in relation to nutrition labels in Spanish” was published in the Journal of Public Health, in co-authorship with Dr. David Flores Villalba (a former student of the doctoral program) and Dr.  Edgardo Ayala Gaytán. This article marked a beginning to the study of consumer attitudes towards nutrition labels. It also discusses to what extent we read labels when making purchase decisions. The result of this research concluded that, in general, this information is not used and is not understandable to consumers.

“These results are very revealing for marketing research, obviously, but also for other areas such as health, and even public policy, since there is a proposal in Mexico at the federal level to change the regulations related to the design of labels on food products. We are evaluating the possibility of including labeling similar to that used in other Latin American countries which highlights, on the front part of the label, the elements harmful to health,” she explained.


New marketing research tools

Traditionally, to understand purchasing behavior, the consumer was studied by using quantitative methodologies, such as surveys, for example. Qualitative methodologies were also used, such as in-depth interviews, focus groups, ethnography, visualization of behavior in the field, and even netnography, which consists of observing what consumers do and comment on brands through the Internet.

All these tools have been used regularly to make consumption pattern analysis.

But now we can also make use of much more technological tools, such as neuroresearch, which helps us to measure elements that in the past were impossible to measure.


Neurosciences as a marketing tool

The methodology known in marketing as neuroresearch carries out the analysis of brain activity and its reactions to certain stimuli, which allows us to complement and contrast the information that the consumer reports to the researcher. Physiological reactions are measured to understand the impulses that move the consumer to buy a particular item.

When talking about a market study carried out by neuroresearch, the findings can be expanded enormously since several factors are measured through different technologies: the degree of attention paid when a consumer looks at a product, the level of sweating or the brain waves, which are the result of the reaction to a stimulus.

The EyeTracker is a tool that measures visual attention: “It is a device that monitors the time of attention paid to a product, image or advertisement; the route your eyes followed; where you started the visual route and where you stopped, as well as the pupil dilation, which is equivalent to an attraction proxy that the person had during the exposure,” explained Dr. Quintanilla.

By using this tool, a study entitled Neuro-research in Marketing: Eye-tracking case conducted by Dr. Rachel Rodríguez, a former student of the doctoral program, exposed participants to labels of products previously classified as healthy or unhealthy.  It was noted that, in terms of label review, when consumers identified a product as “healthy”, some information was already taken for granted and, therefore, no attention was paid to nutrition labels.

However, this was not the case for products not perceived as healthy. Even so, it was unfortunate to find that the overall attention that a consumer pays to read the contents of nutrition labels is minimum.

Regarding the EyeTracker, Dr. Rachel Rodríguez said that in market studies, the tool allows researchers to understand consumers’ visual behavior objectively.

With this tool it is possible:

  • To evaluate the attractiveness of the package design
  • To assess the attention paid to promotional videos
  • To obtain usability tests (web page evaluations)
  • To know the user experience (brand sites)

Neuroresearch methodologies have reached the area of consumer research as a new tool to complement the type of studies within the social sciences that we have traditionally carried out, and by using them, researchers are making transcendental advances.

“These new technological tools help us to measure not only what the consumer consciously reports, but also what happens in terms of their neuronal activity, which means that these results are not biased or interpreted according to some specific preference. That’s why they are more objective,” Dr. Quintanilla concluded.

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