Neuromarketing – how to win the battle on the shelf?

Dalibor Šumiga Behavioral marketing/Neuromarketing, Marketing

Various research shows various percentage, but on average, 70-80% of products disappear from the shelf within its first year of existence. What are the main reasons for this and what can you do to prevent your product from falling into this “80 % club”?

There could be a number of reasons, but the most common ones are:

  • You weren’t logistically ready for growth
  • You invested in production facilities and left bread crumbs for marketing
  • Your market research wasn’t properly aimed at finding the right niche and target group
  • You didn’t pay enough attention to the development of the product itself and the analysis of shoppers’ perception

If we assume that you’re an experienced professional in retail, that you have a well organized distribution chain, a state-of-the-art production facility and that a need and space for the launching of  a specific product exist, the part which remains is the one most brands slip up on – shoppers’ perception.

It would be interesting to conduct a survey on how many retail experts tested the packaging of their own product and its ads before launching it?
Are you among those who studied the field well before game kick off? Did you check how shoppers perceived your product upon seeing it on a shelf, surrounded by other products?
Did you check which emotion or association your ad elicits with potential buyers?
Do they perceive your product as premium, affordable, eco friendly…?

You can’t get an answer to the majority of these questions with a standard survey or a focus group for a simple reason – shoppers are not good at predicting or interpreting their own behavior. Particularly, when they aren’t certain in their own response (they don’ know it or they have doubts) or because they want to give a socially acceptable answer due to their surrounding.

Modern technology combined with science gives you the opportunity of getting answers even to these questions and in the following  text I will try and familiarise you with the methods we use in our research that are accessible and affordable in the Adria region.

There are two questions you want answered in this phase of brand developement:

  1. Which emotion/association does my product elicit?
  2. How do shoppers perceive it in a situation when it is surrounded by other products?

Measuring the subconscious perception of a product is one of the methods: it’s conducted online in a way that examinees are exposed to your product for around a hundred milliseconds before being shown a certain association, emotion or attribute they have to choose as shown in the picture:

The stronger the shoppers’ subconscious connects an association with your product, the faster their reaction in a situation when they are simultaneously exposed to your product in a specific association.

This method is also useful in testing TV ads and other promotional material before their launch.

If you want to test the packaging of a product, two methods are the most practical – measuring the electrical signals of the brain (EEG) and tracking the movement of the eyeballs.

By using EEG it is possible to measure motivation. Motivation shows how much a person likes a product and how the person perceives a product with different pricing options.

By using eye tracking technology it is possible to check how quickly a person notices the packaging of your product when it is surrounded by other ones. This information can be acquired by testing using a planogram or eye tracking glasses in an actual environment or in a lab which simulates shelves from a real supermarket.


The so called unboxing testing in which it is possible to see in advance whether shoppers have trouble using your product can be conducted with eye tracking glasses.

This type of testing enables you to find out in time whether shoppers notice all of the key information you emphasized on the product and if they are using it in the right way.


If your product greatly depends on scents (perfumes) and tastes (delicacies), apart from using EEG, a very efficient method is measuring arousal through micro particles of sweat and measuring facial expressions ( especially when testing scents)

Measuring arousal, as its name suggests, detects the presence and level of arousal while testing scents for example. Facial coding on the other hand, by detecting micro expressions of face muscles, detects the presence of 7 fundamental emotions – joy, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, disdain, repulsion.

Measuring arousal can be used as an additional sensor while testing the perception of a product. In the example pictured below is a display of the arousal level of a married couple to whom we showed a famous brand of underwear.


What do all of these examples have in common? The fact that they track reactions which are very difficult or practically impossible to manipulate, and most of them fall under subconscious reactions.

Up until a few years, the application of this kind of technology and methodology required substantial investments. Today, when consumer psychology, behavioral economics and neuroscience are finally where  they already deserved to be long ago, and with technology becoming more and more accessible, you can hardly find an alibi why your product was taken off the shelf over night.