The Secret Weapon in Product Development: How Real-Time Emotion Insights Are Changing Everything!

Imagine understanding the precise moment a user feels joy using your app or the exact point of frustration in a user journey.

The Secret Weapon in Product Development: How Real-Time Emotion Insights Are Changing Everything!

In the fast-moving world of product development, where anticipating user needs is paramount, product builders are starting a new trend by paying close attention to how their users feel. The trend is not about gathering even more raw data but quite the opposite; it delves into the emotional ebb and flow of user experiences to understand the drivers of tracked behaviours. We are entering an era, and real-time emotion insights are becoming the secret weapon of leading product managers, UX researchers, and strategists at some of the largest and most successful companies.

Breaking With Tradition

Until now, understanding users has been a lot like trying to complete a puzzle with missing pieces in complete darkness.

Surveys, interviews, and observational studies have been the go-to methods, providing snapshots of user experience, often retrospective and filtered through the subjective lens of memory and bias. While valuable tools, these miss the emotional journey of the user that effectively defines their interaction with any product.

But as wearable devices have become ubiquitous in our daily lives, the data they capture has evolved into a rich source of insights. If analysed correctly, their data unlocks a treasure trove of information.

Are Real-Time Emotion Insights Useful?

Imagine understanding the precise moment a user feels joy using your app or the exact point of frustration in a user journey.

This level of insight is game-changing, and it allows Product Managers, UX Researchers and strategists to make informed decisions, not just based on what users say or do but on how they feel.

Emotions are the missing piece in the user research puzzle, offering insights into why certain user behaviours manifest. This is particularly vital in areas where user experience is key, like in mindfulness apps. Understanding moments of joy or frustration can directly inform which features enhance the learning experience and promote habit formation.

As we delve deeper into emotion analytics, we will explore how real-time emotion insights are redefining the landscape of product development, offering a new lens through which to view user experience and opening up new avenues for innovation and user-centric design. The goal? To transform the way we think about and build for our users.

The Role of Wearables in User Research

Once only used to track steps and to earn us Strava kudos, wearables have recently become powerful tools for understanding human emotions. Real-time emotion insights involve capturing and interpreting physiological signals from wearable devices – such as heart rate, skin temperature or galvanic skin response – to infer emotional states during user interactions with an app or a product.

For instance, while a user navigates an app, their wearable detects changes in their physiological state, pointing to moments of delight, confusion, or frustration.

These insights are immediate and unfiltered, providing direct insights into the user experience.

Emotion Insights VS Traditional Methods

Real-time emotion insights have several advantages over usual user research methods:

  • Immediate Feedback: Unlike surveys or interviews, which occur after the experience, real-time insights provide instant feedback during the user interaction.
  • Authentic Responses: These insights capture genuine, unfiltered emotional reactions, free from the biases often present in self-reported data.
  • Depth of Insight: They delve beyond surface-level feedback or user actions, uncovering the emotional journey of the user through their physiological responses.
  • Scalability and Efficiency: With the integration of AI and machine learning, analysing large datasets from wearables becomes more manageable, making this method scalable and efficient.
  • Enhanced User Understanding: By combining these insights with existing analytics, companies can gain a more holistic view of their users, leading to better product decisions.

In addition, by using emotion insights, product managers can significantly enhance the relevance and effectiveness of their products. This approach not only satisfies the existing needs of users but also anticipates future trends and preferences, keeping companies ahead in a competitive landscape.

Impact on Product Development and Strategy

Enhancing User Experience Design

Emotion insights serve as a compass, guiding the design process towards truly resonant user experiences and enabling teams to create a more intuitive, personalised and engaging experience.

  • Emotion-Responsive Content: Content elements can be fine-tuned based on emotional feedback. For instance, if users show signs of frustration at certain points, product teams can quickly address these aspects to create a more seamless experience or even enable content elements to adapt to different emotional cues automatically.
  • Greater & More Accurate Personalisation: Products can adapt in real-time, offering personalised content or features that resonate with the emotional states. But beyond that, personalisation engines can focus on how content affects users rather than historic likes and activity which doesn't always meet real user needs.
  • Creating Emotional Connections: By aligning product experiences with users' emotional states, companies can forge stronger emotional connections with their users, leading to increased loyalty and user satisfaction.

Streamlining Product Iteration and Testing

The speed and accuracy of real-time emotion insights drastically reduce the time and resources required for product testing and iteration. On average, product teams spend 80% of their time working on features that never get used. This feedback loop allows them to rapidly refine features, ensuring the final product is closely aligned with user needs and preferences.

  • Rapid Prototyping: Real-time emotional data allows for quicker validation of design concepts, enabling teams to iterate faster and more effectively.
  • Reduced Reliance on Lengthy A/B Testing: Traditional A/B testing can be time-consuming. Emotion insights provide immediate feedback, reducing the need for extended testing periods.
  • Efficient Resource Allocation: With clearer insight into what works and what doesn't, companies can allocate their resources more effectively, focusing on features and designs that genuinely resonate with users.

Informed Decision Making for Product Managers

For product managers and strategists, emotion insights are a goldmine. They provide a level of understanding that goes beyond traditional metrics.

  • Strategic Feature Development: Insights into user emotions can inform the prioritisation and development of new features, ensuring that they address real user needs.
  • Enhanced User Retention Strategies: Understanding the emotional triggers that lead to user satisfaction or dissatisfaction helps in developing strategies to increase user retention.
  • Predictive Analysis for Future Trends: By analysing emotional trends, product managers can anticipate future user needs and preferences, allowing for proactive rather than reactive product development.

The impact on product development and strategy cannot be overstated. Emotion insights represent a significant advancement in our ability to understand and respond to user needs. By integrating these insights, companies can create products that are not only functionally superior but also emotionally resonant, leading to greater user engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty.

Practical Application of Insights

Health & Wellness Apps

In the health and wellness sector, real-time emotion insights have been instrumental in creating more personalised and effective user experiences. 

  • Improved Habit Building: Using emotional signals as inputs for apps, users can benefit from active emotional feedback during sessions or passive feedback at the end, visualising their progress session-by-session, proven to improve habit formation by up to 59%.
  • Personalised Wellness Plans: Emotional data allows apps to adjust wellness recommendations based on the user's emotional states and ongoing emotional trends, enhancing the effectiveness of health regimes.
  • Stress and Mental Health Monitoring: By tracking emotional trends automatically, these apps can identify patterns prompting timely interventions or alerts.

Entertainment & Media

For music, podcast, and video streaming services, real-time emotion insights offer a groundbreaking approach to understanding audience preferences and engagement. Using emotions to track what audiences enjoy and where they start dropping off is invaluable for long-form content makers as they provide a blueprint for engagement. While in TV and Film, understanding what content resonates is key in guiding decisions on what to produce next, as highlighted in the Storyfit x Kouo study.

  • Content Curation and Recommendations: Streaming services can use emotional insights to curate content that aligns with the viewer's current mood, enhancing retention & engagement.
  • Ensuring ROI for Studios & Streaming Platforms: Real-time emotional feedback provides studios with direct insight into audience reactions, helping to shape future productions and improve test screening insights.

Gaming: Mobile & Platform

In gaming, both on mobile and platform, these insights influence game design, difficulty adjustments, NPC responsiveness and in-game advertising, leading to more engaging and personalised gaming experiences.

  • Dynamic Game Difficulty Adjustment: Games can adjust their difficulty in real-time based on the player's emotional state, maintaining an optimal level of challenge and engagement.
  • Enhanced Player Experience: Insights into player emotions can guide the development of more immersive and emotionally resonant gaming narratives that respond to the players; like NPCs that adapt and respond to user emotions and unique world elements that change by reflecting emotional states.


In the EdTevh sector, responding to emotional states can significantly enhance the learning experience. Memrise's work, Stress-Free Language Practice, is a great example of how emotion insights can be leveraged to build groundbreaking user experiences.

  • Adaptive Learning Environments: EdTech platforms can modify content delivery based on the learner’s emotional state, optimising the learning process and focusing on what learners need at the moment to engage rather than just where they are in their learning journey, much like a real teacher can.
  • Identification of Learning Challenges: Emotional data can help in identifying areas where students struggle, allowing for timely intervention and support. This means instead of waiting for drop-off to signal an issue, we can notice something going wrong in the experience while it’s not too hard to remedy it.


FemTech applications, focusing on women's health and wellness, are uniquely positioned to benefit from real-time emotion insights. These insights can inform everything from menstrual cycle tracking to fertility and mental health apps, offering a more comprehensive approach to women's health.

  • Personalized Health Insights: By understanding emotional fluctuations, FemTech apps can provide more accurate health insights tailored to each stage of a woman’s cycle.
  • Enhanced Support and Guidance: Emotional data can enhance the support and guidance offered by these apps, particularly in areas like fertility and mental health.
  • Automated Emotion Logging: In its simplest form, emotion insights can provide input for these apps to help their users track and objectively measure their emotional changes.

There’s huge and transformative potential for real-time emotion insights across various industries and it’s already being utilised across sectors with incredible success. By harnessing these insights, companies are not only improving user experiences but are also pioneering new ways to interact with and understand their customers, leading to products and services that focus on real value.

Not All Users Need Wearables

A common misconception about real-time emotion insights is the need for widespread user participation and data sharing or that the entire user base needs to have a wearable device. In reality, highly valuable insights can be gleaned even from a small subset of users.

The continuous and unbiased data from emotion analytics can provide more meaningful insights into user emotions and behaviours than any other research method. Even with a small number of users, you get more insights that are easier to connect to metrics, than with a survey or focus group which will always have limited scope and suffer from biases.

Providing More Value with Every Interaction

The advent of real-time emotion insights heralds a new chapter in product development allowing us to move beyond traditional metrics and KPIs and offering a more holistic view of the user experience.

As we embrace this new paradigm, companies must approach it with a sense of responsibility and ethics. In doing so, they can unlock the full potential of real-time emotion insights, creating products and experiences that are not only innovative and successful but also deeply aligned with the needs and aspirations of their users. This is not just the future of product development; it is the future of building meaningful, lasting relationships with users.