Stressful shopping: Readouts from the Q Sensor show a customer’s skin conductance in green; the peaks indicate higher levels of physiological arousal, which often indicate stress. The middle green line shows skin temperature, and the three colored lines at the bottom reflect the customer’s wrist movements. Shoppers who called themselves “casual” makeup users tended to get far more stressed about matching the colors of two different kinds of cosmetics (chart at bottom) than “frequent” makeup users (top chart).
When the consumer electronics website CNet wanted to test the effectiveness of a mobile app it was developing, it turned to Shopper Sciences, which put Q Sensors on several dozen customers at Best Buy. The customers, who had downloaded the app while it was in beta and agreed to the test before coming to the store, were looking for cameras, camcorders, computers, and other electronics. The app let them scan bar codes to call up product reviews, rankings, and social-media tools on CNet.
“You could see shopper stress drop immediately when they turned to the mobile application to do research on the product,” says Ross. His team also found that the shoppers were more likely to click on banner ads in the mobile app when the ads contained information about the item they were searching for. After the customers had made their purchases, Shopper Sciences followed up with interviews and questionnaires. “We were able to link what they talked about and what we observed and also how their body reacted,” Ross says. “The intersection of those three things gives you a really rich understanding of what’s going on.” The takeaway from the CNet experiment: it’s stressful to decide whether a big purchase is worthwhile. “We are figuring out ways to lower that [stress] so it’s easier to make a decision and then it’s easier to get more people to buy,” he says.
Similarly, a cosmetics consulting company wanted to better understand the behavior of customers shopping for makeup in supermarkets and drugstores. Shopper Sciences recruited around 150 shoppers, put stress sensors on them, and observed them by cameras or in person. Ross says the sensors revealed that casual makeup wearers tended to be confident in picking the shade of lipstick they liked, for example, but that their stress “dramatically increased” when they tried to match one cosmetic to another, like lipstick to eye shadow. Now the company is developing a mobile app that lets shoppers test combinations of products that might work with their skin type.