Eye-tracking technology has been around for a while but is still helping brands improve products and marketing campaigns, particularly as AR technology can now bring it in-app.

The concept – which simply refers to the measurement of eye activity – presents a number of big opportunities, ranging from market research to an improved UX.

So, which brands have been among the first to cotton on? Let’s take a look at how companies are capitalising on consumer’s eyes.

Smashbox and beauty recommendations

Augmented reality is becoming commonplace within the beauty industry, with many brands launching AR-driven apps to create a more immersive user experience. Eye-tracking technology is being brought in-app, too, as a useful application of AR tech.

In 2017, Smashbox partnered with Modiface - the company behind the popular AR app, MAKEUP. Smashbox's products were the first to officially be featured on the Makeup app, and the brand also tested out Modiface’s eye-tracking technology in order to discover what users are most interested in. 

Essentially, it allows Smashbox to determine where attention is focused, which in turn allows the brand to push or recommend particular products. For example, if a user lingers over an eyeshadow or mascara but doesn’t take action, the brand can then deliberately draw their attention back to this product in future marketing messages. 

As well as determining the most popular overall products, Smashbox also uses the technology to test and analyse the placement of call-to-action buttons. To demonstrate the effect of the tech, the brand's marketers split 8,819 app users into two groups, one was served a call-to-action button permanently placed near the top of the page, and the second only saw it after they had interacted with a particular product. 

The results showed that the conversion rate increased from 6.2% to 7.9% for the latter group, justifying the use of the technology and proving that it can help to drive sales when used in real-time.

Palace Resorts and personalised marketing

Eye-tracking technology is fairly new in-app, but has been done with webcams for some time (particularly for UX research). Palace Resorts, however, has integrated webcam tech it into its latest online marketing campaign, serving users with a personalised experience based on how they use their eyes.

Dubbed ‘Never Lift a Finger’ (a reference to the brand’s high-end and luxury position) - the campaign involves a microsite where visitors can partake in a quiz. With the option to turn on their computer’s webcam, participants are asked to deliberately select their favourite type of Palace getaway, simply by lingering on the categories they prefer (i.e. ‘upscale dining’ or ‘laidback eateries’).

At the end of the quiz, users are then presented with their ideal holiday resort, and prompted to click through to book.

While this example is more of a marketing gimmick than something of tangible value for consumers, it’s perhaps a sign of how eye-tracking technology could be utilised in future. We’ve moved on from typing to speaking, so could the the next step be using our gaze? The technology is undoubtedly exciting for brands, but for now, Expedia has shown how it can also infuse fun and a bit of novelty into digital marketing. 

GSK and product development

Meanwhile, GSK - one of the world’s largest consumer healthcare companies – has been using eye-tracking technology for a much more actionable and conventional purpose. It has launched a ‘consumer sensory lab’ to test its products using eye-tracking devices and monitoring systems. 

Its ‘Shopper Science Lab’ is designed to look and feel like a real store, allowing real consumers to browse and shop while under analysis. The eye-tracking technology enables the brand to monitor how consumers interact with products on the shelf, and what packaging (or parts of it) they are most drawn to. In turn, the company is able to plan and develop future products (or make changes to current ones) based on this insight. For example, if a person shows a high level of fixation or repeats a fixation, it could be that product copy is more difficult to process or is unnecessarily complicated. 

Eye-tracking for market research is undoubtedly one of the most common ways companies are utilising the technology, but GSK shows how some are investing in it in a big way. 

Toyota and its in-store experience

Much like store layouts, car showrooms can have a huge impact on the consumer-buying experience. In a bid to understand and improve its own showroom, Toyota partnered with eye-tracking experts Tobii Pro for a study to discover how visitors engaged and interacted while browsing.

The 92 participants involved were separated into two groups – millennials and others – before exploring the interactive Toyota showroom. Interestingly, the eye-tracking technology picked up on two main points. First, that younger shoppers spent more time with interactive digital elements, while older shoppers’ attention was focused more on textual information. Overall, however, it also found that interactive digital screens generated the most engagement, proving that it’s an effective way to drive shoppers down the path to purchase.

For automotive brands like Toyota, eye-tracking technology doesn’t just provide general insight, but can directly influence sales. This is because car buyers use showrooms for a specific purchase, making it vital for brands to understand what features are the the most influential.

What does the future hold?

So, where will eye-tracking technology take us in future? 

Alongside greater adoption by user experience professionals, it’s been suggested that the biggest impact will be on how users interact with brands in the first place. 

As computers evolve to become even more intuitive, it appears that clicking, typing, and (with the recent adoption of voice technology) speaking won’t be the only way we will be able to interact online. 

For now, the technology is certainly a worthwhile investment for brands keen to better understand and engage consumers in a variety of ways.

More for UX lovers:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 9 April, 2018 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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