The Biometrics of Consumer Engagement

The biometrics of consumer engagementMarketers know the bar for engaging “digital natives” is high, and it’s only getting higher, according a Time Inc./Innerscope Research study. “A Biometric Day in the Life” showed that under-30 consumers switched platforms more frequently and were less emotionally engaged with non-digital platforms than their older counterparts.

Dr. Carl Marci is chief scientist of Innerscope Research, as well as clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Chair of the Advisory Committee for the Advancement of Psychotherapy at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is formerly director of social neuroscience for the Psychotherapy Research Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital. He spoke at MSI’s April 2013 Trustees Meeting on the “Biometric Day in the Life” study and, more generally, on how biometrics can inform and offer insights to companies seeking to build empathy, engagement and trust with their customers

Describing Innerscope Research’s approach in layperson’s terms, he says, “We measure automatic nervous system responses, which form the building blocks of emotional engagement, through biometric data: heart rate, skin conductance, respiration, and motion.”

In the Time Inc. study, media users—who were designated either “digital natives” or “digital immigrants”—wore biometric belts as well as glasses with embedded cameras that monitored which medium or platform they were using in their homes throughout their non-working day (i.e., TVs, magazines, tablets, smartphones or channels within platforms). In all, 30 participants were monitored in their homes for 10 hours a day. One-on-one interviews and a follow-up survey of 2,000 consumers generated additional insights.

The findings include:

  • Digital natives switch their attention between media platforms 27 times per hour, about every other minute, 35% more often than digital immigrants.
  • Digital natives spend significantly more time using multiple platforms, which leads to a more constrained pattern of emotional engagement with content. They experience fewer highs and lows of emotional response. Digital natives more frequently use media to regulate their mood: the results strongly suggest that as soon as they grow tired or bored, they turn their attention to something new.
  • At home, 65% of digital natives take their devices from room to room with them (vs. 41% for digital immigrants), making switching platforms even easier.
  • More than half (54%) of digital natives say “I prefer texting people rather than talking to them” compared with 28% of digital immigrants.

These insights underscore what many marketers already know: they need to find new and different ways to tell their stories and emotionally engage the next generation of consumers. "This study strongly suggests a transformation in the time spent, patterns of visual attention and emotional consequences of modern media consumption that is rewiring the brains of a generation of Americans,” says Marci.

Spring 2013 Trustees Meeting: Building Trust in a Digital Age
April 11, 2013, Boston, MA

Related links

Creating Empathy and Intimacy in a Digital Age
Carl Marci (2013) [Conference presentation]

Creating Empathy and Intimacy in a Digital Age
Carl Marci, Innerscope Research (2013) [Video]

Channeling the Power of Millennials
Ross Martin (2012) [Article]


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