From desktop to supermarket shelf : Eye-tracking exploration on consumer attention and choice

Bialkova, Svetlana; Grunert, Klaus G.; Trijp, Hans van


Determining the key parameters driving attention and choice at the point of sale is a challenging task. To address this challenge, we performed two studies employing eye-tracking (ET) as a methodological tool when varying the visual marketing stimuli in a lab-experimental setting and in real supermarket shelf, and thus, facing an important gap in the current body of literature – the need to reconcile ET results from lab and field studies. The first study was conducted in lab settings and explored in a controlled manner the top-down (goal-directed) vs. bottom-up (stimulus-driven) mechanisms of attention and choice. The second study took a step further in investigating these mechanisms in real life settings, namely a supermarket shelf. In both studies the same assortment context was presented (i.e. eight products, four flavours of two brands each). The products varied on their level of healthfulness (i.e. nutrient profile) which was explicitly communicated with nutrition labelling formats displayed front of pack. Participants were asked to select either the healthiest product or a product on their preference (lab settings), and a product of their preference (in-store settings). Fixation duration, number of fixations, and the consumer's choice was recorded. The results show that Brand and Product flavour are leading criteria in driving attention and choice, i.e. the stronger brand and best selected product received higher number of fixations. The shopping goal and label formats also contributed to variation in observed patterns. Brand placement in combination with brand strength had a significant impact in the retail environment. Current outcomes demonstrate the potential of eye-tracking in consumer research, from lab to supermarket shelf. The advanced understanding we offer in attention patterns and consequent decision opens promising avenues in successfully applying marketing strategies to navigate consumers’ attention and choice.