The Mouse that Sells

Mood states in marketing are hugely important. While some of us shop to cheer ourselves up (“retail therapy”), the vast majority of consumers are more likely to part with their hard-earned cash when they are in a good mood. It’s one of the main drivers of shopper marketing tactics aimed at achieving that ideal “pitch-state”, from the subdued lighting in fashion stores that signals indulgence to the use of slow relaxing background music designed to increase both time spent browsing and, crucially, our average spend. The principle is simple and profitable – happy shoppers equal lighter wallets!

The challenge for online marketers is much greater here. The range of physical cues at our disposal is far more limiting than in a physical retail store, though advances are being made all of the time by marketers with an interest in areas such as design aesthetics. A much more sensible strategy for the majority of online marketers would be to find ways of determining exactly what mood state a browser was currently in, the try to tailor the message presented accordingly. With developments in neuromarketing, this is becoming more and more viable. And that doesn’t have to mean complex use of fMRI scans or even the intrusive recognition of facial expressions via a hijacked webcam.

One relatively inexpensive and under-used tool, in my view, is the humble mouse. Retailers and brand owners have become almost obsessive in their (often misguided) use of in-store eye-tracking technologies, but tend to neglect the far more ubiquitous and at time more revealing technology right there at our finger tips. Researchers such as Philippe Zimmerman and his colleagues at Universitat Bern have been exploring the relationship between our almost subconscious movements of the computer mouse and current emotional states, developing highly effective taxonomies that can help us quickly spot a happy consumer from just a few seconds on a web page.

Joining up all of these technologies holds huge potential for online marketers. Whether idly fiddling with a mouse or running a finger over the trackpad, we can now see what mood a potential customer is in and employ the usual tools for tailoring content to deliver the type of advertisement – or even design of web page – most likely to stimulate a sale.

And mouse-tracking is way cheaper and more effective than other neuromarketing tools, folks!