When you are making a difficult decision, you will often find yourself listening to your “gut feelings,” those hardwired heuristics that tell you when something is right. For marketers, tapping into what’s right for consumers is a gold mine.

We know now that gut feelings play a crucial and indispensable role in how people make decisions. Whether it’s the way people make purchases or which marketing messages they respond most positively to, how we feel often dictates what we do much more than our ability to post-rationalise a response in a survey.

For decades, marketers struggled with quantifying and building insights from consumer non-conscious feelings. Now, thanks to the technological revolution, we live in the era of “the Quantified Self,” a term common in the media that refers to people’s desire to measure their own behaviours or metrics, such as weight, diet, exercise, energy consumption, and so on.

As a society, we have found a new, insatiable appetite for personalised data, and we are starting to embrace the buzzword “the Internet of Things” (IoT), which describes everyday objects having network connectivity that allows them to send and receive data. By 2020, that potentially means 30 billion devices all wirelessly connected—all sending, receiving, processing, and storing data.

This is starting a revolution in market research and the way brands plan and evaluate their marketing strategies.

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Discreet Market Research
When you’re conducting market research or evaluating how effective your marketing campaign is, you need the conditions to feel as natural as possible. The more “unnatural” the environment, the less likely the results will align with what participants are actually thinking and feeling. Using large, heavy equipment to track a person’s subconscious indications has always been too obtrusive—participants are much more conscious that they are being tracked and their body reacts accordingly, skewing the data.

Now, with smartwatches, fitness bands, and Internet of Things sensors, you can gather biometric data in a simple, cost-effective, seamless, and portable way. This is a major stride towards fully unlocking the Quantified Self and getting a more precise picture of what people are thinking and feeling.

Modern day biometrics allow us to understand whether what people say is consistent with how they really feel, whether they know it or not, by evaluating their physiological responses when exposed to different stimuli, for example advertising, new product/pack, different customer experiences. These prompts can be used to explain the drivers of their behaviour more accurately, and to look under the bonnet of the contemporary consumer’s mind.

We know that every emotion has a physiological and psychometric response: increased heart rate, muscle movement, response time, etc. Currently, we are using GSR (galvanic skin response) to identify “key moments” of consumer engagement with different stimuli, such as advertising creative and other marketing stimuli, by measuring the electrical conductivity of their skin (triggered by tiny changes in sweat levels). Validated methods of psychological analysis are then added giving us valuable data on what they engage with.

Add also our ability to track, record, and analyse millisecond-by-millisecond changes to facial expression via facial coding. Add tools such as linguistic coding, analysing our speech patterns and our ability to undertake research in virtual reality-based environments. Then it’s easy to see how researchers can better understand people and their behaviour much more deeply. This also means marketers can create more effective and better-targeted campaigns based on richer and sounder data.

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And due to the vastness of the information we are able to collect in our Big Data and Quantified Self era, leveraging the power of automation and algorithms to detect patterns and help humans decipher what they actually mean will become ever more crucial.

Programmatic is no longer in its infancy in terms of media planning and buying. However, using algorithms is still very much nascent in terms of accurately predicting human behaviour—from how we are likely to vote in an election through to certifying when someone wants to hear a marketing message and when they don’t.

However, with the data that the Quantified Self can offer us and more sophisticated techniques for predicting human behaviour, there is enormous potential for revolutionising the ways and the sophistication with which we talk to consumers. Marketing 4.0 is nigh.