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Debunking the myths of biometrics within marketing

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Anton Watman)

Despite biometric technology existing since the early 90s, its overall use in the public domain has been limited making it more science fiction than fact. For the most part, the technology has been used in security measures adding to the misconceptions surrounding its wider application. As we move into the new 20s, Biometrics has crept more into the public domain through personal mobile security and now can be used as an analytical tool providing qualitative data to retail, digital marketing and UX development.

Many marketing traditionalists may underestimate the value that biometric user testing can bring. In reality, by utilising biometrics, marketers can add a whole new level to their UX insights - highlighting not just the what but also the why of a user’s journey.

Biometrics seems to be one area of technology which is set to grow and continue to see more innovations and breakthroughs. Far from being a passing trend, it’s predicted that the biometric market will grow to just under $60 billion by 2025. A number of biometric techniques for UX testing are already being used to great success including eye-tracking, facial expression recognition and galvanic skin response, where changes in a user’s emotional arousal are monitored. This is just the beginning of a number of possibilities, with wearable tech for UX testing already in the early stages of development.

Let’s take a look at three common myths of biometrics within the marketing industry.

#1 Biometrics is expensive to apply

It has been argued that biometrics can be costly. However, when deployed correctly, the benefits can be significant and can increase sales, therefore outweighing initial costs. The investment in biometrics doesn’t have to be vast with companies able to start off running quick and easy studies into a core user journey and then from there expand depending on preferences. Additionally, the cost can depend heavily on the type of study and the number of participants involved - something to consider to determine the most cost-effective outcome.

Costs can also be decided by how clear a journey is defined. Through practice, it has been found that marketers can do top-level investigations into the UX provided by a checkout or booking process for example for relatively low costs. This is due to the journey being clearly defined and like more traditional UX testing, the numbers of participants required to unearth important issues with the UX are relatively low when achieving statistical significance. However, by making changes in these journeys conversion rates can be altered, resulting in changes in revenue. From doing this, activity becomes increasingly valuable.

#2 Google Analytics and HotJar tells us everything we need to know

There are many misconceptions around the idea that Google Analytics and HotJar do everything and tells us everything we need to know about how users engage with digital content. Google Analytics is able to highlight which pages are the most popular, time spent on a certain page, where there is a decline in a customer’s journey and the different type of conversion rates. Similarly, HotJar showcases the online behaviour of users. Although both of these tools provide valuable insights they are limited in their design. Google Analytics doesn’t give the ‘why’ to the analytic results and HotJar only tracks the mouse movements, therefore they do not provide the full picture to why the customers make the choices that they do.

Through the adoption of biometrics and in particular eye tracking you are able to see where customers look on the screen before they click on the page, which gives an increasingly accurate representation of what the customers are drawn to. Additionally, through facial expression analysis and galvanic skin response, emotion can be detected and marketers are not only able to fully understand the customer’s journey with what they engage with and what they do not but also how that journey made them feel. The combination of data tools and biometrics work together and compliment each other undoubtedly.

#3 It’s hard to determine the value of biometrics 

One of the main roadblocks when it comes to mass adoption of biometric technology is the lack of understanding on what it can achieve. One of the challenges marketers are faced with is not knowing just how broadly biometrics can be used. There are myriad applications for biometrics, not just in evaluating UX, but also in advertising placement, visual design, video and imagery selection. It is the job of businesses who provide biometrics to other companies to raise awareness and educate people about biometrics.

Organisations have different objectives, therefore it is all down to personal preference. When adopted correctly though, the value-added is irreplaceable. Given that 75 per cent of people base a brands credibility by their website, creating a positive and visually pleasing user experience is more important than ever before.

The marketing industry has only recently started adopting biometrics and the technology certainly has opportunity to grow significantly and be utilised more widely across the industry. Although it can be daunting for companies, it doesn’t take a huge investment to get started and depending on company goals they are able to expand the biometrics into different areas. For example, one area of opportunity is the expansion of electroencephalography (EEG), which measures electrical activity in the brain. Through the wider use of this, reactions can be detected in the brain which can be related to customer emotional and  behavioural responses without the need for a doctorate in neuroscience. 

As the future for biometrics technology seems boundless, one thing is clear - it is no longer a technology reserved for science fiction and is instead a reality.

David Wharram, CEO, Coast Digital