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With a background in Web Development, Marcus now leads the award-winning Technology Department at Space Between, based in the UK. Marcus is responsible for coordinating the Biometric Research Team, and CRO implementation team. He is also responsible for conducting and publishing original research insights. Marcus has worked with some of the world's leading eCommerce brands, including ASOS, ghd and LEGOland, has partnered with the likes of Adobe and Dot Digital. 

Welcome back to the e-commerce marketing podcast everyone. I am your host Arlen Robinson. And today we've got a very special guest Marcus cook who has a background in web development and Marcus now leads the. Award-winning technology department at space between based in the UK Marcus is responsible for coordinating the biometric research team and the conversion rate optimization implementation team.

He's also responsible for conducting and Publishing original research insights. Marcus has worked with some of the world's leading e-commerce Brands including. Asos ghd and Legoland he's partnered with the likes of adobe as well as dot digital. Welcome to the podcast Marcus. Thank you. Thank you everybody.

Yeah, no problem. It's definitely a pleasure for all of the listeners. We've got to kind of a slightly different subject and I'm really excited to talk to you about which is biometric user research and its applications with e-commerce and conversion rate optimization, you know, the world these days is really advancing tremendously as far as technology is concerned and as far as taking advantage of data and really truly understanding the customers, so I'm super excited.

To find out. What you guys have going on at space between and your insight into merging Biometrics with conversion rate optimisation, but before we get into all of that wanted to tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into what you're doing today. Yeah. Sure. I can give you a little bit of a history.

I always like to talk about the biometric stuff as well because it's super sexy and everyone loves it. So what about me? So I'm from the north of England Manchester. You guys might have heard it because of the football team and I live in kind of like the southern part of England. So in Kent and you guys might not know from the US but if you situate in the UK, you people can definitely tell so some people say I'm a stranger in my own country.

Okay. So yeah, it's quite a rarity around here to here. I'm a novelty which is quite nice so my kind of. Exploration internet kind of started when I was about 13 as plenty of people my age your parents generally got an internet connection with an AOL CD and the modem, right? Yep. I was one of those bright and around that age, you know, you're super like inquisitive and I remember being like so what's this thing and it was one of those weird things where they try and explain it to you initially you do a damn poor job of it and you sent you kind of get yourself involved and then you know, Give it two weeks and you're teaching them how to use the body think right exactly.

And so I kind of use that to talk to my friends and talk to from two different people around the world. I kind of got involved in a lot of different online gaming communities and I started making message boards and things like that and I like how to install it on a server and then how to like design that and how to code it and how do we change this thing in our and then there used to be this thing called our signatures on those message boards, right?

And I've got involved in like making the graphics for those things and that's when I went super deep into like the aesthetic design and so. I was doing that probably around about to the age of probably like 1920 and then I started Contracting for various different like local companies throughout that time.

I started on my University degree, which is in computer network technology. Still Contracting throughout those four years. When I finish University, we moved down here down to Kent and I joined a company called however the extras now, they're not well known across the world. But in the UK If you search airport car parking Google the first page they are every single one of those links.

No, okay friends, but they also work with Brands like Legoland again in the UK Alton Towers and Todd Park and they make their holidays websites. And so I was involved in the the fun side of business not selling tarmac actually, you know. Again, people nice holidays. And so that's where I kind of crafted and hone some of my skills.

So they're they have like a super strong engineering culture and I learned from the best there and I took a lot from that experience. It was probably quite a few years in and I was getting itchy feet, you know, because I've done a lot of Contracting I've spoke to clients have, you know, kind of double the solutions and had a wide-ranging experience and so at that point, I kind of needed a new challenge and a couple of friends and I set up space between and we wanted to take the experience that we had from the previous jobs the development the ux analytic side combine them into cro and then kind of offer that to our different clients.

So that's kind of a whistle-stop tour gets of my recent history. Okay, great. We all know. That sounds awesome. Yeah. It was interesting. You mentioned that AOL and the CD and that definitely brought back memories and it's it really is so hard to believe that it's we've come so far from the dial up service where you just connect it to the internet via modem a dial-up modem that connected via phone line and with the AOL soon as you log in the way that you've got mail.

It's just really amazing. But that actually really was not that long ago. I mean, it seems like it was like 50 years ago wasn't all that. It really wasn't that long ago. It's not at all. You know, you know go back 15 years. It's so different. Yeah, very good. You know today we don't want another trade in other Wi-Fi drops out my phone right?

I get really no idea what the day that wasn't even a thing. You had to be situated in front of a massive desktop computer exactly also known could be on the phone either. Yep. Yep. Definitely. Yes. So it's I mean we've made tremendous strides as far as technology is concerned for sure. And you know, I'm also thinking about the speeds at that time.

The internet speeds were the dial up service. I mean, I remember it was like. What was it 28k was I think kind of the standard and I mean if you compare that to like now I got where I'm at right now. I'm getting a hundred megabytes download. I mean that's like night and day. So I said, I always remember that scene from The Simpsons with the comic book guy and he's like, he's on the computer needs download an image and you can just see it coming in line by line actually what it was looking like yeah crazy there really was and you know people were patient regularly we dealt with it because it was a new medium.

Yes all we had but yeah, that definitely takes me back a little bit. It's really interesting how you really kind of crafted a niche for yourself you and the other co-founders of space between and before we kind of get into what you're doing and how. This is really kind of some groundbreaking stuff.

Why don't you explain to us your really what is Biometrics actually for people that aren't familiar with that? Yeah. That's a good question to be honest with you because it sounds fancy right Biometrics. I don't know what the hell does that mean isn't it fancy? You know, it's the easiest way saying it's biological metric.

So it's essentially quantifying output from. Puma beans, right. So generally human beings are analog it's hard to essentially graph what thoughts and feelings are in a spreadsheet that generally you can't do that with the some of the senses that we use and makes it a little bit easier. So what we try and do is measure and quantify data from people, so.

How much does your pupils dilate when I show you this picture? How quickly does it change over time? How why does it get and for how long did it stay that wide? So it's these kind of questions that we're looking for. So how we can detect light changes in your physiology changes in your brain on your face and your eyes aren't even in your body temperature your heart rate your skin your blood pressure that kind of.

I did use in sentence 2 essentially gather that information and make it usable to us as well. That's amazing stuff. I know most of my listeners are probably familiar with as far as conversion rate optimization is concerned familiar with I guess you could say the initial version of what kind of you're talking about.

You guys really can't take it to the next level but I think kind of the initial analysis of kind of studying the behavior patterns of customers on websites is like the heat mapping technology. Where you're tracking people's Mouse movements and your tracking how long they're on a particular page where you think their eyes are based on where their Mouse movement is and there's a lot of solutions out there like that right now where you can actually do that and you know, it's a pretty cool things but I've always wondered and whenever I saw those Solutions and the feature set, I'm like, all right, just because someone's mouth.

This is kind of drifting over the one section doesn't necessarily mean that eyes are focused there. That's what I always kind of got me out how really accurate those heat maps are because you know, I just know for myself, you know, sometimes just like anyone you may be looking at something and these days everyone is so distracted.

We've got all of these devices. We got a million things we're doing we got email we got chat we got texting and so I know you know for myself sometimes yeah, maybe add a website but. I've got a dual screen there. So sometimes I may be looking at another screen or I may be chatting with somebody else but yet my mouse is kind of drifting over but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm focusing there.

I'm looking at it. So I really don't know how accurate that is, but you guys have really just taking it to the next level. So. Why don't you just Enlighten us a little bit about how you've really merged the two together this biometric user research and to conversion rate optimization and how can this benefit and e-commerce company?

So you touched on a few different interesting points that I think one of the things I like about Sarah that it's not based on opinion is very objective. So it's actually used as voting with a while. And the key is the uses that like and you mentioned it like this tools where you can see what people moving their Mouse we've done research and compared eye-tracking versus Mass traffic and to see the difference and what we found actually is that there's different types of users some people like you say will this is generally in the UK.

The older demographic will fall along. Whether eyes are with the mouse about one to five seconds behind that you read with the mouse and those are fairly accurate. Some people that will just move the mouse off the side of the screen get the hell out of the way while I read this text and which case like how useful is the mass tracking in that regard is not at all.

So there's a lot of these different tools to essentially try and understand what your users are doing on your actual website. And the reason they do this is because if you are running like split tests or multivariate test with conversion optimization, you're going to have the best chance if you understand your users and their problems and the challenges they face and obviously that's very difficult.

And so all these tools are trying to like dig down into that behavior what we find it and how we kind of apply Biometrics to see row is the best way of doing it. Is to actually talk to users so don't necessarily just try and watch them in a creepy minor using tools like session coming hot shower.

All right, here's a little bit weird and the vast majority people were either opt into these things with cookies. They probably don't know this stuff is going on that could be very useful, but it's kind of like one tool in our and at all. What we like to do is do the traditional ux research method get eight people in a room get them in one by one give them a representative cast to reform make sure that your actual demographic and then ask some questions about it.

What did you think about that thing? What did you struggle with? All these kind of things and what we're trying to do here is to understand the user motivation. So what are they trying to achieve and what's getting in our way now when you do traditional ux research, I don't know if you've done it before but people will tell you exactly what that well they'll tell you.

It's better they can what they can remember. What they saw but as you are no humans are fat soluble. We essentially when we do these things users are lie to us, right as well collecting all this data we can tell they don't mean to lie. They don't know any better because think about no, no actually, what did you have for lunch yesterday.

It's going to be hard for you to remember right there complete and humans memory changes over time it morphs. And so every time we remember a specific instance of something we're not remembering the actual time. It happened remembering the last time remember? I'm so it's kind of like a game of Chinese.

Yeah, maybe I can pull them all and reliable that is so true. And I think one thing that comes to mind as you were mentioning that as far as these questions that are there. You're asking these particular users is a lot of times even if they don't know the right answer. They don't know the answer.

They can't remember they make something up because actually they want to fulfill they don't want to shoot stupid exactly. That's the biggest. Yeah because you're paying them to be in that room. They don't want to let you down as much as you try and distract yourself from that situation. They're going to try and do right by you and also that you say they will not lie to you.

And so the reasons why we do all this is because if you think of conscious or behavior as I can I spoke what they. Tell you is going to be the very tip of the iceberg on the surface and you'll get that from normal like self-reporting through traditional user research or focus groups or tools like online surveys and things like that.

You get that information. We don't get is a vast other unconscious behavior that the person back over know is going on in the back of the head that explains the way we like to picture is Imagine. You've got a pie chart because everything is going to graph the self-reporting the conscious Behavior probably like 20 percent of the actual user motivation there.

And the rest of it is under the surface and move. This is where we use these other tools to dig into it. So we use biometric sensors to understand like the deeper the traditionally harder to understand aspects of the motivation, so. Did it connect with me did I feel an emotional response did I notice the key message information?

Am I motivated to act is my brain actually sending the right signals as well. And so what we do is we use all that information in a traditional kind of ux research manner to Canada one ass equipped the right questions of the candidates, but also to we have the wealth and depth of data to say, you know, one of the things I like to say is obviously when you're selling stuff on an e-commerce website, there's going to come a point in the user Journey.

They care about the delivery options and about so you've got fantastic deliver USB next day delivery is free. Even if you order it 10:00 p.m. We're going to get it to you at 9:00 a.m. The next morning, that could be the best thing in the world where someone doesn't see that thing then it's of no use to them because it's not going to influence their behavior.

And so. Using eye-tracking we can conclusively say whether or not people saw that and how many people saw that and again with the mass tracking stuff. You can have an indication but it's going to be a poor one either. So we use these extra sensors to essentially build the global confidence in the decisions and to actually understand the user motivation to an increased depth that you can't get elsewhere.

That's some pretty awesome stuff. And when you were describing everything that you're Gathering and all of this data, I'm trying to kind of picture this scenario, but you can of course Enlighten us a little bit more. I'm kind of picturing somebody sitting at a you know, a desk and just kind of strapped down with the like yeah electrodes all over them.

I'm sure that's a little bit of it to some extent but I could be totally off. Why don't you let us know a little bit about you know, some of the technology tools involve that that really make all of this tracking happen. You're not too far from the truth. Yeah, so it's not. Like mad scientist with electrodes trapped on the head, but it can be ready.

I think one of the things that we like to take into consideration is there are research methods that you can use at a lot more invasive. So I'll get through some of the senses but there's one called electroencephalograms and you might see it in like signed shows or doctoral programs where they essentially have a caps on the head.

They scratched their head with a pie electrodes to the head with a little bit of gel for we seen that before. Yeah, we don't do that you can do that. But if you're going to tell someone our don't worry, I'm just going to scratch your scalp now and put this cap on you. Run a pile, right? I could imagine so you always gotta weigh up how intrusive is this method of research versus what values are going to give me.

So what we like to use is eye-tracking so. What i is a small sensor that sits on the bottom of the screen, it can see exactly where it's always a locking on the screen with the analogy. I like to use the tracker that we have is about the accuracy of maybe your fingernail. So if you put your fingernail up against your screen, you can generally see within that area that's about how accurate we are which is quite good for websites and things like that so that essentially chanting in foreign.

From the sensor into the eye detects essentially the reflection of the cornea and you can see exactly how that looks. There's another one you can do it with glasses as well. So you can use the similar kit that we have to actually test in real world scenarios. So it's not just Ecommerce. You can put glasses on someone you can put them in a car and you can have them drive to say the shop.

And you can wear them looking on the road. You can go. Oh I can see they didn't say this. But if a pedestrian about to cross the road and things like that and you see it's been used in more kind of Automotive situations, especially now with a I driving it's super helpful. We also have a sensor called a GSR sensor.

This is what I like to say is two thirds of a lie detector test. So it's galvanic skin response. What essentially means is we this is where we the electrode thing comes in. We attach two electrodes to your fingers normally on the inside of them and this is a small electric current between those two senses the resistance and that changes depending how much you sweating and it's not like bundles and bundles of sweat.

It's like my neck changes in sweat. So the example I like to use is if you a cat person or a dog person, I'm a cat person. Okay, if I show you a picture of a cat. Yeah, and I know you. That's within 1 to 5 Seconds. Your body will have a physiological response that you cannot control to that cat.

It's all using the GSR sensor. We can connect that and we can see that we use this for General e-commerce checkouts and things like that. So we obviously you put in your card details. You don't want to have a strong emotional response from the user generally because it's going to be frustration only because I can't body type in my car details as I want to type.

It keeps telling me no and so we can use that to kind of quantify. Exactly what the emotional state of the user? We have a these webcams as well and the webcam capture about 30 frames a second. It runs each of those images through a pre-trained AI model at different points of the face are like the eyebrows the nose and motion with my hands, but you can see around the mouth around the jaw, and we see how those points of the face change over time.

So, you know, The side of the lips come up the mouth opens. That's probably going to be a smile. So we mapped those into expressions and those expressions into different emotions. So emotions like Joy anger frustration confusion that kind of think she's great for me. Some point because people have done this in the past, but why people don't it is you Army would sit there and watch the video and say this person smiling from second one to second two and if I did that on one day and then you did that on the day it be entirely different.

But what we have is a objective machine doing it is the same every single time and so we can compare data sets across time and we can be very confident in the data, which is very handy and then there's also the electrons are for Graham like I mentioned earlier it's a cap on the head. And you can see essentially which parts of the user's brain are firing so you can see whether or not they're actually experiencing frustration in their brain, you know, the right rap part of the brain is lighting up in the selectivity there whether they're having engagement or excitement or even you know, like some kind of meditation aspects as well other than a calm State and so those are kind of the senses that we use that is some really cool stuff.

You mentioned some really key things that I know, you know e-commerce companies are taking advantage of right now you mentioned that. Certain things that you can do is find out our people actually seeing a certain area of the site. Maybe it's a promotion. Maybe it's a key area. Are they seeing that or the eyes are able to focus to that.

Also, you mentioned at the checkout point the shopping cart phase. Is there any type of uneasiness there's or some sweating happening or what's there is there like a real elevation in somebody's heart rate that type of thing I can see how that's very very important. And can we really make a difference as far as really truly breaking down what is happening with someone when they're going through a site whether they're purchasing their just browsing and perusing.

So yeah, really cool stuff and I know those things and just being able to analyze those things and make changes based on the data that you get is really tremendous. What I was just wondering though is don't know how much data you have on this, but I could imagine that the top companies these days.

Have taken this stuff to the next level and are doing these type of things like, you know, the Amazons of the world and you know, a lot of the other large e-commerce brands that have billions and billions of dollars for marketing and research I could I wouldn't doubt that they're doing all of this.

Would you agree? Yeah entirely, you know, if you eat if you look into these larger companies, they're all using this kind of stuff down and out and they tested rigorously and this is one of the things that I we often have to essentially help our clients with is. Remember the majority of business perspective your competitor doing this.

If you're not doing this, you won't understand the users and you won't make the right decisions by them. And so you won't be able to keep up with the competition. Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah, so it's like as as long as one of the companies is doing is they have their Leading Edge and then the other companies really have almost no choice but to do it or else they're not going to have access to the same data.

It's exactly snow is really no way around it, you know with all of this stuff. Like I said, it's super exciting. And it's really amazing how far we've come in just a short period of time, you know, like I said coming from the heat maps and just the basic analytics. You also described the fact that they were already doing this by videotaping people's reactions and things that they're doing when they're actually just viewing a website and then analyzing a video of the recording of that and then you know now when you know, we don't no longer have to do that, we can really just break down where their eyes are moving and just the whole nine.

So we've gone to the next level. Where do you see the future with all of this the future advancements on the horizon with regards to Biometrics technology? What's next really? So I think the major limitation of the current technologies that have to get 8 to 12 people in a room when I have to have someone next to them for the whole body.

And then I have to have someone pull over that data and you know map that into something usable for so ux team ruit. I think the next solution will be small similar to these Mouse tracking tools, whereby you can essentially opt into for someone to use say their webcam. So there's actually pre-trained our models nowadays that can take your an image of your eyes and see where you're looking on the screen such that you can have your actual users.

Give you their own eye tracking data across the website and it might be you know, you just give them my sight discount but it's you can then collect data at scale which hasn't been possible before because of the cost would be quite so prohibitive, but we probably still a couple years away from you know, someone actually cracking that problem there really makes sense.

I understand what you're saying in ordered it for you guys to campus what you're doing right now. It does involve. Little bit of effort you've got to create a kind of a focus group get these people in get them scheduled get the data. Then you have your team analyze it and then make it make changes based on it.

So there is still quite a few steps. And yeah, like you said, I guess the next step would really be almost a kind of a Biometrics home kit really if you will where your company could send this home kit to the customer of theirs and exchange. Discounts or some other type of incentive and they just hook it up to their computer and they take all that data of get it directly from that person's computer which really makes a lot more sense because getting data at that scale is going to be a little bit more accurate because you're getting people in their home environment or their work environment and it's more of a natural setting as opposed to someone coming into.

Facility and sitting down because I right then and there that's really different because typically you know that they don't usually go in there that I buying products are coming into a facility. So they're all politicians are going you not going to go sit next to a stranger right now, right exactly.

Where question for right? So right. So right do some way to kind of brush II was just saying you can go some way to kind of. Lay that fit right right. You can actually speak to another human being, you know have a conversation but it's not going to be like they're set on the couch with a phone and having the three kids around.

Well, they're still watching the TV right? It's not going to be the same thing like you say, so. Yeah, that's probably the next step. Definitely. That's really some cool stuff Marcus. We really appreciate you coming on to the e-commerce marketing podcast because this is a subject that we hadn't really talked about before with Biometrics merging with conversion rate optimization it we've had a lot of guests on before we've talked about conversion rate optimization and you know, it's still a huge industry and it's something that these companies right now are the successful companies are taking advantage of but now this being able to do this really.

Is definitely taking things to the next level and it's only going to continue to grow and you know, I like to finally I always like to end up with asking Switching gears here a little bit and asking one kind of final fun fact question. And if you can just let us know in our audience know a little bit about yourself and just as far as what would be one fun fact that our audience would be surprised to know about.

These kind of questions always catch me off guard. What is a fun fact about me? I don't know. I have to Bengal cats, they're fairly sizable and they make a lot of noise and they've been very quiet today because my wife has been entertaining them upstairs. Okay to be running around the house screaming so, okay.

That's some cool stuff. Well, I'm a cat person as well and at some point I'm probably gonna get some of my end and yeah, that's cool stuff. I think the Bengal cats. Those are they are those the cats that are that have the stripes that are similar to small Tigers. You look like tigers. Yeah. Those are really cool the Fantastic to play fetch with you and everything is great.

All right, doc. Okay. Well, I have to pick your brain a little bit on that and then I'm gonna do some research on my ankle that Definitely Maybe the. Type of kit that I get for sure. I said buddy. Hit me up about, you know a great we have. Thanks again Marcus for being on and you know, finally if any of our listeners would like to pick your brain anymore about the Biometrics and conversion rate.

What's the best way for them to get in contact with you? So you can just go to our website space between duck UK jump on there scroll down the page right to the bottom. My email address is right there. Just hit me up or give me a bell. I'm happy to have a check. Okay, that sounds awesome. And so there was space between that code at UK and the worst one.

We'll have that in the in the recording notes as well. All right, Marcus. Well, thanks again for joining us today on the e-commerce marketing. Thank you, buddy. Take care.  Thank you for listening to e-commerce marketing podcast. Do you need to get more feedback and reviews from your customers and improve your customer retention?

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Podcast Guest Info

Marcus Cooke
Technology Department Lead at Space Between