A few years ago, I looked at Tobii's cool eye tracking technology as a possible means of evaluating the effectiveness of paint color merchandisers. I ended up getting a new job before I could complete the project, which was a crying shame given the phenomenally stupid metrics the company was using at the time to determine effectiveness of the display, such as number of color chips pulled per year. Like discrete choice research or any of the other "real life" simulation tools gaining in popularity (has anyone seen the growth of Affinova lately?), eye tracking opened the potential for us to figure out what the consumer really wanted to see rather than what we thought we wanted the consumer to see.
Next Gen Market Research 2012 award winners was a company I had never heard about called Eye Track Shop. They claim to have perfected the ability to perform eye tracking using a regular Webcam rather than using expensive equipment like Tobii requires. If market researchers on the client side got the tiniest bit creative with this technology and it really worked, this change in cost could offer a revolution in a huge number of businesses.
Even in our business making industrial hardware, the user interface is critical. We now have the potential to borrow a handful of users for short periods of time over the Web to get reactions to early prototypes before we spend millions on tooling for a product that wouldn't otherwise gain user acceptance. We could also easily test iterations of our asset management console to see what improvements made it more user-friendly. We could even present prospects with versions of our trade show displays to determine what grabbed the most attention.
Imagine the possibilities! What about A/B testing on physical packaging without ever having to ship the package? Store display pre-testing for seasonal merchandising? Improved impact testing of direct mail calls to action? All now possible with inexpensive eye tracking.
Makes me want to start a market research firm. Stay tuned.