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A closer look at consumers' gazes

Concordia research proves shoppers are drawn to centrally placed products
December 11, 2012

Rows of new toys, endless racks of sweaters, long lines of books in the bestsellers section. From mall displays to boutique exhibits, lines of horizontally arranged products are the norm when it comes to the holiday shopping.

But how does the placement of products on store shelves influence which ones consumers ultimately choose? It turns out that the shopper’s eye has a very central focus. 

Onur Bodur is an associate professor in Concordia’s John Molson School of Business | Photo credit: Concordia University

“Consumers are more likely to purchase products placed in the middle of a display – without even being aware of it,” says Onur Bodur. The associate professor at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business is co-author of a recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research, along with marketing researchers at HEC Paris in France and the Aston Business School in England.

Using eye-tracking devices, Bodur and his colleagues investigated how location influences choices for a variety of products, including cosmetics and food items.

They found that consumers increase their visual focus on the central object in a product display area during the final five seconds of the decision-making process – and that was the point at which they determined which option to choose.

The process, the researchers say, is a subconscious one. When asked how they had come to choose which product to buy, consumers did not accurately recall their reasons for their decisions. What’s more, they were not aware of any conscious visual focus on one area of the display over another.

What does uncovering these unconscious habits mean for the average shopper? Greater awareness of buying behaviours should lead to more informed choices. Says Bodur, “by using this newfound knowledge that visual attention is naturally drawn to the centre of a display, consumers can consciously train themselves to make a more thorough visual scan of what’s on offer.”

When it comes to holiday shopping, the visual equivalent to thinking outside of the box just might lead to savvier selections.

Related links:
•    John Molson School of Business
•    H. Onur Bodur
•    Journal of Consumer Research

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