Whatever the amount of expert advice you seek or in-depth research you conduct, it can sometimes feel that pinpointing why some online experiences are successful with your customers and some are not requires nothing short of a mind-reader.

Now there is a pioneering neuroscience technique that has been recently developed which, in the right hands, just might have similarly magical implications for internet marketers and e-commerce professionals struggling to unlock the true potential of their online channel.

Electroencephalography, or EEG research, measures electrical brain activity in an attempt to try to understand more precisely how people react to different stimuli. In highly competitive online markets, this information can be used to help reveal how customers are responding to specific aspects or periods of their experience.

By measuring mind states, emotions and other subconscious responses, EEG can lead trained consultants to understand more precisely how clients really think, act and behave. It combines eye-tracking with further complex neurological data to measure sub-conscious reactions, then connects these with cognitive responses. By studying, in real-time, variations in the different patterns of electrical activity in the brain, EEG makes it possible to gain a considerable understanding of exactly what is going on inside a customer’s mind at any given moment.

When combined with classic qualitative research methods, EEG enables the exploration of the otherwise inaccessible subconscious. EEG is already widely used in the advertising and film worlds, and has been successfully used in packaging, merchandising design and creative and concept work. Used intelligently, it can allow you to see exactly how opinions of your business are formed, and how consumers react to positive and negative outcomes and to different processes, and where cross-promotions have the most impact.

Online gaming companies have recognised for some time that user experience is a huge factor in winning and retaining clients. Over the years, every element of the gaming experience, from initial signup through to the latest live betting sports books and 3D casinos, has been thoroughly tested across multiple and diverse audience groups. Perhaps it’s now time for internet marketing specialists to lift to their own game?

EEG offers a fresh approach to an old problem. It provides a means by which you can begin to measure the impact of both individual features and combinations of elements on how your customers ‘feel’ while engaging with you online. It also allows marketers and designers alike to challenge long-standing assumptions.

Take the online registration process, for example. The vast majority of the work that’s been done in this field has been focused on simplifying and shortening the time and effort needed. But our own work in the insurance industry has revealed that there is actually a trade off between providing a smaller amount of information and the amount of trust and affinity customers have with a particular brand and its security. In what other industries might such long held beliefs now require more thorough challenging? It’s worth finding out.

What is for sure, is that emerging EEG techniques put into practice by customer experience specialists can now provide a level of insight into customers’ subconscious reactions to the online channel that was previously unobtainable.


Published 19 February, 2009 by Marty Carroll

Marty Carroll is Consultancy Director at Foviance and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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Comments (3)


Sue Field, N/A

I'm sorry to burst this bubble (or attempt to - it seems unburstable...), but brain imagery techniques like EEG, MRI and so on, DO NOT allow anyone to understand how consumers 'think, act and behave'.

EEG has been around for donkeys years and is merely a measure of electrical activity in the brain - that's it!  

Neuroscientific tools like EEG do not tell us anything used on their own, and each has serious limitations - even MRI, which the media love because it allows them to publish pretty pictures of the brain.  These methods also rely on assumptions that are highly contested. 

The different methods need to be used together (which happens rarely), and even then do not lead to reliable predictions.  They DO NOT predict complex behaviours.  Boring - but true.

A similarly silly news story was the 'brain scan for racism'.  Ridiculous - but it seems the public want to be sold (literally) spin rather than scientific reality. 

over 9 years ago


Niall Bellabarba

Marty, very interesting post! EEG is clearly an innovative and controversial area,

but as Sue's criticism points out maybe some white papers or pointers towards some scientific research into this area could be an interesting additional read for those who want to go through the fine print of this innovative area before investing time and money into it. Do you have some specific research papers to point us to?

By the same token Sue could you briefly high light where your EEG - Neuroscience experience comes from to make the bold statements above?

I have read some Neuroscience papers from academic institutions which do not agree with your statements (see links below ) could you please elaborate how you come to those strong conclusions?



Interesting topic ! My opinion is that for now EEG is only starting to leave its scientific quarters and entering a more business minded arena, as such it will be companies that are innovative and risk prone that will embrace it early and history suggests these are also the most succesful despite the early iterations of the adopted innovation are different from the final dominant design.

Niall Bellabarba

over 9 years ago

Mihkel Jäätma

Mihkel Jäätma, Founding Partner at Realeyes

Hello Sue! Seems Marty made a point about measuring response, rather than predicting complex behaviour. Are you saying even that is not possible based on electrical activity in the brain?

over 9 years ago

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