How Eye Tracking Market Research Can Reduce 90% Product Failure Rate

Posted by Rock LaManna


How Eye Tracking Market Research Can Reduce 90% Product Failure Rate

With on-the-shelf packaging products, the stakes and the rate of failure is ridiculously high. In America, 90% of new products fail after two years. Eye tracking insights can reverse that trend and save companies millions with accurate predictive data.

The eyes may be the gateway to the soul, but as Dr. R. Andrew Hurley and his team at Package InSight are proving, they are also the key to new product success.

Dr. R. Andrew Hurley

Dr. R. Andrew Hurley

Package InSight conducts consumer biometric testing on packaging, which includes eye tracking and emotion analytics. The goal of their consumer research is to accelerate the design to market process by improving the product before it’s released to the retail shelf.

Because an average of $1 million (and 22 months of time) is spent on a new product, Hurley is proving that the smarter approach for packaging companies is to “fail faster” through biometrics research.

What is Eye Tracking Market Research?

Eye tracking involves the use of a device to measure eye positions and eye movement. Eye tracking market research uses the quantitative results to provide strategic guidance to businesses and organizations on product launches, websites, and other marketing collateral.

Package InSight’s approach is to take a sampling of a target market, fit the study participants with a lightweight biometric eye tracking device, and then measure their reaction to an on-shelf product.

Design and messaging recommendations before the product reaches the market.

From that data, they can make recommendations on everything including the package design, messaging -- even the impact of using a more expensive foil board or premium material to embellish -- before the product reaches the market.

Failing Faster: Accelerating the Design to Market Process

Before we delve deeper into the specifics of the eye tracking technology, you need to understand the big picture ramifications of this type of research, and the seismic change it can make in the packaging industry. The statistics that Hurley points to:

  • Over 90% of new products fail after two years.
  • The average development process for a new product, on average, is $1 million.
  • It takes 22 months in North America to launch a new product to market.

“We’re trying to help people get to that in 18 weeks,” Hurley says. “Skip the focus group, skip the stage gate process.”  

He points to Brazil as an example of a country that gets to market at a much faster rate. With a population of over 200 million people, they move faster to market because they embrace failure and can handle the high stakes.

“The definition of creativity is to develop multiple perspectives on the same idea - It’s built into their culture to fail fast,” Hurley says.

How Can You Fail Faster?

Look, no one wants to fail. Everyone wants success. But Hurley argues that you’re making a huge mistake if you put months of development and millions of dollars to fully develop a product that has a small chance of success.

“Why spend 22 months fooling around on a 10% shot?” he asks.

Instead, take the approach espoused by Eric Ries in The Lean Startup, and used by many agile software developers: Create the minimum viable package.  “Produce the least you need to do to the product and get it out as fast as possible,” Hurley explains.

Then test it. If you fail, you’ve invested very little capital, and you can come back in and refine. The goal is to continue to research and refine your product until you produce something that is disruptive to the marketplace.

Listen as Dr. Hurley explains how to “fail faster.”

Be a Disruptive Force

Today’s product categories are highly competitive. Hurley believes you must rethink the context of packaging to truly stand out. You must be disruptive to catch the fleeting attention of a shopper.

This includes rethinking your own category. He points out several examples:

  • A rice mix moved from a category of all paperboard cartons to a stand-up pouch. It was a huge success.
  • Publix transitioned all of its capsule coffee into solid black packaging. It made a positive impact on the coffee shelves compared to other brands.
  • A produce company changed the net mesh bagging material for its fruit - testing 20 different types of netting before it found one that spiked attention rates.

Instead of reacting to match the CEO’s gut instinct, or the subjective opinions of a marketing team, use testing as your barometer.  

“I believe in the data,” Hurley says, recalling a grits company that went through 14 different eye tracking rounds before it found a package design that put it in the top 30 percentile.

Demand and Command Attention: Two Factors That Correlate to Success

What does Package InSight test for?  Using proprietary technology, they collect over 1 million data points (in an average study). That’s a lot of data points. But it really boils down to two factors:

1. Time to first fixation

How many seconds does it take to find an object of interest on the store shelves?  Package InSight will map out the entire category, and then test the new product against the rest of the products.

2. Total fixation duration

Time to first fixation is huge - it’s the proverbial foot in the door. But Hurley emphasizes that total fixation duration ultimately determines if someone is going to buy a product. That’s because the length of time you spend looking at an object is directly correlated to whether or not you purchase it.

“If you can demand and command the attention, you win,” he said.

Using the Latest in Eye Tracking Technology

Eye tracking is nothing new. It’s been around the since the mid 1900s. What is innovative within this space is mobile glasses.

Mobile eye tracking

Lightweight, biometric, and ergonomically-designed, these new models are far more comfortable for the wearer. “You have no idea you’re wearing glasses,” Hurley said. There are pros and cons, however.  Mobile eye tracking requires a lot more prep work and data analysis, but in-context, physical testing is imperative for packaging.

The company has arrangements with a variety of local retail stores (Package InSight is based in South Carolina, and is an Executive Member of the Packaging program). They screen carefully from a large list of participants, ensuring that the client’s target market shop and provide relevant data to understand design impact. Their team works globally as well, and can test products in stores and labs across the world.

They also triangulate qualitative data with quantitative data to ensure greater accuracy. “This is not the market research of the Madmen of the 50s,” he said.

The Jaw-Dropping Results From an Eye Tracking Analysis

When we talk about disruption, nothing is as disruptive as the impact this testing has on the old methods of decision-making.  From the alpha CEO to the 3rd party design teams, Hurley has seen plenty of jaws hit the floor as the result of testing.

But this can be a very good thing.  He recalls working with a 200-year old brand, and the data provided them with the critical information they needed to implement radical changes to their brand identity.

Design team turned in some of their best work.

It also ups the games of your design teams.  A customer of Package InSight worked with a 3rd party design team that improved their output when they learned it would be tested. “The quality of the work was better than they’d ever seen,” Hurley recalls.

It’s another example of how data can be used to drive decisions.

Why Are We Highlighting the Approach of Package InSight?  

Part of the reason are providing readers of our blog with the latest in industry trends and innovations is to help you drive your company’s growth. It will help you bring new initiatives to market faster.

But beyond that, Hurley’s team reinforces our own strategic beliefs. We use a valuation to determine a customer’s strengths and weaknesses, providing recommendations before they undertake major initiatives.  

This strategy requires using smarter data to drive decisions. Now we don’t know if your company’s strategic decisions have a 90% failure rate like new products, but we do know that Hurley’s approach -- and ours -- is the way to prevent it.

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Topics: Printing Industry, Label Industry, Management