Try Eye Tracking for Effective In-Store Marketing

brand packaging heatmapBy Kirk Hendrickson, CEO, Eye Faster

Retailers spend millions of dollars creating in-store marketing displays and signage to help shoppers find the items they need and, maybe, even a few they don’t. But these marketing efforts aren’t worth a dime if customers don’t notice them. Here are a few tips based on eye tracking research to consider when designing and displaying your brand or retailer’s in-store marketing efforts.

1. When it comes to signage, bigger is usually better.

Through our eye tracking, we’ve noticed that while certain design elements like color contrast, brand recognition, or eye catching phrases can draw the attention if shoppers. However, we’ve more consistently noticed that, especially at the shelf level, the space taken up by in-store marketing is often very similar to its overall share of attention.

In a recent study done in a major national retail chain, the store that had been using large signage to cover their overstock inadvertently gave their customers a new type of wayfinding sign. The retailer wanted to understand better how their customer’s use the in-store signage and specifically how they find their way through the store. There were more standard ceiling-hung wayfinding signs present, as would be expected. However, the large graphic signs were used by 84% of customers during their shop while the ceiling hanging signs were noticed by only 54%. The retailer had ultimately assisted their customers in finding product categories by placing the large graphic covers to hide their stock, their intended purpose. The overstock signs are significantly bigger, more colorful and directly over the products they are advertising.

Another, perhaps more obvious reason, that bigger is better when it comes to fonts and messaging, is that larger font sizes can be seen from further away, so give shoppers more opportunity to see the message from different locations in the store. Speaking of different locations in the store…

2. Keep in mind hot spots for attention

One of the biggest missed opportunities to uncover when looking at in-store displays and marketing efforts is not placing messages where customers have idle time in the store.  Any location where a customer is forced to stand and wait should be seen as an opportunity to give them information on sales, promotions, or other in-store messaging. There is a reason why most impulse purchases happen in the checkout lane. Idle customers are seeking something to give their attention to. The same logic could be given to waiting at Deli Counters, in line for fitting rooms, or doing returns at customer service as well.

In one study, eye tracking was used to determine when and where customers were viewing ads during their trip to the gas station. The study tested signage at the pump, inside and outside the gas station, and at checkout. The lowest percentage of shoppers were viewing advertising inside the store, and were most like to notice ads while at the pump. Customers also spent the longest time looking at ads at the pump and spent the majority of their time during the gas station trip at the pump. This was a key area for the retailer to increase their advertising efforts simply because the customers were standing there unoccupied for almost half of the gas station trip.

3. Keep your messaging short and sweet

To reach the most number of people, marketing messaging should be able to articulate in a point in one second or less according to most eye tracking research. In one second, the average human brain can read about four words; so make sure the main message is clearly articulated in that number of words. Customers who are interested in learning more will seek out additional information after reading the initial message.

Using survey research, paired with eye tracking, can assist in understanding what words resonate most with customers. Historically, words like “New” and “Sale” draw attention and are favorably regarded attributes to a product. Customers seem to always be interested in trying new products and everyone loves a sale. The simple message behind those single words attract customer attention and are easily understood in relation to products, which is ideal when marketing a message.

4. Place signage and displays at eye level

Another missed opportunity retailers make is placing good marketing or displays above the shopper’s head. Most shoppers are on a mission, trained to focus their attention on products, which are typically closer to eye level or just below. Placing messaging and displays at this level gives them their greatest opportunity to be noticed. Consistently across product categories and retailers, customers most notice those products on shelves at or up to 30 degrees below eye level. When grocery shoppers place displays on top of tall shelves, very few customers tend to notice them.

In a recent study done at a major national drug store, we found that of all the signage and displays tested, a small group of signs stood out. These signs were on the shelf (where customers are already looking), light up (to attract more attention), and assisted the shoppers with understanding the organization of the aisle (information about which products-types were shelved in that area).  The exception to this rule is informational wayfinding signs, which shoppers have been conditioned to look up for.

In-store marketing is not all about good design. The customer experience in the store plays into the ability of marketing messages to be noticed, read and understood. Keeping in mind where the shopper will be located when viewing the materials, from how far, and what else they are focused on are of paramount importance to effective marketing in stores. Eye tracking research, especially when paired with survey research or qualitative interviews provides a deeper understanding of the roll that experience plays into what the customer is paying attention to as they shop at retailers.

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kirk Hendrickson EyeFasterAbout the Author

Kirk Hendrickson, CEO of Eye Faster, a leading provider of shopper research, developed his expertise in eye tracking and shopper research while leading worldwide field operations for EmSense Corporation and product management for MarketTools, Inc. Kirk holds a patent for conducting surveys on mobile phones and was twice a finalist for the EXPLOR Awards. Kirk holds an MBA from the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration, Dartmouth College, and a BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University.

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