The attention of consumers is easy to influence. This is shown by experiments by researchers at the University of Innsbruck, the results of which were published in the “Journal of Consumer Research”. With simple interventions, the focus of attention of buyers could be expanded and unplanned purchases doubled. “Looking around is the first gateway to unplanned purchase decisions,” study author Mathias Streicher told the APA.
The first step in making a purchase decision is perception of a product. Therefore, retailers try to guide their customers so that they see as many of their products as possible. “Over the past few decades, retailers have developed many sales strategies aimed at attracting customers’ attention,” said Mathias Streicher from the Institute for Strategic Management, Marketing and Tourism at the University of Innsbruck in a broadcast.
As an example, he cites the fact that the milk shelf tends to be located at the back of a supermarket. As a result, customers have to go deep inside the shop for everyday products and see other products on the way there. Customers can also be lured into business areas that are usually less frequented with discount campaigns. “This extends the journey of discovery through the store and increases the likelihood of remembering a forgotten need or discovering a new product in view of what is on offer,” says Streicher.
Screens help with manipulation
How much of the range of goods a consumer perceives depends to a large extent on his or her attention, emphasized the scientist, who examined this with colleagues from Great Britain and Germany in laboratory and field studies in supermarkets. They were able to show that attention patterns can be unconsciously expanded or narrowed through simple measures in the business. Screens were used as they are now widely used as advertising media in shops.
For example, the researchers were able to manipulate the width of attention with the help of the screens at customers of a mini-market on Innsbruck’s university campus. For a broad focus, various neutral images, e.g. a house, a tree, etc., were shown randomly and one after the other on the left or right edge of the screen, while for a narrow focus the same images only appeared in the middle. Then the test subjects were equipped with eye trackers with which the viewing direction can be recorded. They should then choose products in front of a candy shelf. Those people who were previously presented with images on the edge of the monitor looked at significantly more areas of the confectionery shelf in the store than the comparison group, who were always presented with the same images in the center of the screen.
Shopping list reduces unplanned purchases
In a second study in a Tyrolean supermarket, the researchers equipped customers with pedometers. Here, too, they were shown pictures on the display before they went shopping in the same way as in the other experiment, but this time they were products. While those customers whose attention was tightly focused traveled an average of around 240 meters in the store, stayed there for ten minutes and spent 15 euros, customers with broader attention came to an average of 300 meters, 16 minutes dwell time and expenses of 27 euros. In the group with a broad focus, the proportion of unplanned purchases in the shopping cart doubled compared to their shopping plans, which were queried before entering the supermarket.
For Strings, recommendations for action can be derived from the results for people who want to better control their shopping behavior. “Our research shows that unplanned purchases already start at the level of visual attention. In order to reduce unplanned purchases, it is better to avoid wandering glances in shopping situations – preferably with the help of a shopping list.”