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“95 percent of our thoughts and decisions occur within the subconscious”

Hema Thiagarajah, XM Asia

Imagine using traditional research, eye-tracking methodology, and heuristics techniques to understand the mindset and preferences of consumers in Asia for next generation marketing strategy. That is what XM Asia Pacific’s Consumer Experience Lab is offering to do. DMA got Hema Thiagarajah, director of user experience, XM Asia to talk more about how the lab will help brands going forward.

 What made XM Asia set up this Lab? What kind of investments did the agency make for this?

Understanding the target audience is the key to the effectiveness of any campaign, product or experience. We felt we needed to move beyond usability to understand the cognitive process that influences consumer decisions, especially by focusing on how information is represented, processed and transformed beyond the brain and machines. The lab was set up to help us gain an intimate understanding of Asian consumer, so we could then design better messages and experiences that resonates with them. XM spent close to 500,000 SGD in resources, infrastructure and technology.

What trends did you notice among consumers that called for setting up this lab?

95 percent of our thoughts and decisions occur within the subconscious. We’ve always felt that while market research data is extremely valuable, it provides a one-dimensional view of what people say they will do. To top it off, most of the research that has been conducted is based on US, or European behaviour. We felt there was a need to marry attitudinal (what people say they do), behavioural (what people actually do) and subconscious (what people are subconsciously focusing their attention on) responses, especially for the Asian context.

How will Consumer Experience Lab be helpful to XM and its clients?

The continuous testing methodology firstly helps us validate our own digital work, making us accountable to our clients. The triangulation of research methods also provides us a deeper understanding and empathy towards our target audience segments. With this, we hope to deliver more targeted, differentiated strategies that are unique to the consumer segments that our clients want to target. Combining traditional research, heuristic techniques and eye-tracking methodology, we will aim to identify digital marketing tools and usability features that are best positioned to engage and influence consumer decisions. Clients will be able to choose from small, bespoke pilot audits and prototyping to enterprise-level projects.

What is human heuristics? How does this help in evolving any marketing strategy?

Human heuristics is the XM framework for understanding the human cognitive and behavioural process; then designing experiences using the insights gleaned from our research. But it doesn’t stop there. We continuously refine the product or service through analytics and further testing, till we have something almost perfect. By developing human heuristics, we will better understand how people interact with ads, products and services, even banners and website. Simply put, we want to create a cerebral ‘sat nav’ framework for marketing that will optimize consumer education and transaction.

Can you give more details about Tobii Eye Tracking technology? What makes it unique? 

Precision is of utmost importance in measuring the eye movements. To yield the best insights, an eye tracking device needs to combine high accuracy and precision in an unobtrusive manner so that end users are able to use or read in the most natural manner. Tobii technology was the clear leader for us, providing an extremely precise means of measurement, with advanced data analysis capabilities.

What kind of services will you be able to provide your clients?

We evaluate websites, mobile apps, games (pretty much anything that is on a screen) for ease of use, effectiveness and satisfaction. We also evaluate viewer interest, engagement for print ads, TV commercials, even packaging of physical products to drive insights into the ways different or different demographics and life stages people watch, absorb information and purchase products.

How will this brick & mortar facility help in developing your digital business?

Although some research agencies offer remote usability testing and eye-tracking services, we are the only advertising agency, digital or traditional, to have this kind of facility in house, in Southeast Asia.   We felt a physical lab would put us in a unique position to gain a deeper level of first-hand insight to our target audience and offer our client a range and scope of 360-degree services they can’t get elsewhere.

What are the plans ahead for XM Asia?

In the medium term, we are looking to develop an Asian consumer ‘behavioural model’ through the aggregated data from our research. In the longer term, we are moving towards using these insights for service design and cross-channel interactions.

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