Product Design — Biometrics

The use of biometrics in product development and testing is a relatively under-developed field of research that has much potential. In particular there should be considerable scope in sensorial research where devices like EEG can glean insights into consumers’ feelings and emotions.

EEG, GSR and/or facial coding can provide revealing insights in taste testing and sensory research. Measuring pupil dilation through eye trackers is also an option; as the saying goes, “the first taste is always with the eyes”.

As they consume/experience a product such as a cup of tea, a soft drink, a burger or a fragrance, the biometric sensors can provide continuous flow of information on a host of metrics. So, you get to know how consumers initially react, and how their reactions change over the duration of the experience.

In a study conducted by Q Research Solutions, analysts tracked physiological responses to four air fresheners through electrodes placed on the consumers’ face (facial EMG), hand (GSR) and wrist (heart rate variability). Seated at a fragranced booth, respondents were asked to sit and breathe normally for 15 seconds as the devices captured their responses.

According to company sources, compared to conventional survey research which indicated parity for “liking” across the fragrances, the biometrics were revealing. Some fragrances were arousing, others were neutral, and some experienced gains in valence, initially aversive, becoming more approachable.

As this study suggests, biometrics can provide finer insights into how consumers genuinely feel about products and reveal emotions that they may not be able to express verbally or may not even be aware of. The ability of biometric sensors to gauge how consumers’ responses change over the duration of the exposure, adds another useful dimension to our understanding of consumers’ experiences.

Details on biometric are provided in Chapter Biometrics.

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