Breaking: consumers are not the most reliable source of what grabs their attention and influences their shopping choices. So marketers are using sophisticated eye-tracking technology to measure shopper response to different products and design.
That's why P&G, Kimberly-Clark, Johnson & Johnson and Unilever are just a few of the CPG giants using three-dimensional computer simulations of both designs and store layouts with the eye-tracking technology to deduce how to improve sales.
“Eye-tracking gives you the only valid way of measuring shelf visibility, because it’s fully a behavioral measure," Scott Young, president of Perception Research Services, told Packaging World. "If you ask consumers attitudinally what they saw on shelf, you’re not going to get accurate information, because recall is biased by brand familiarity. If a shopper sees a soda shelf, she will ‘remember’ seeing Coke and Pepsi, even if they weren’t actually on the shelf.”
Kimberly-Clark used eye-tracking for Viva paper towels in 2009, testing which package designs were noticed in the first 10 seconds (a marketer’s version of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink), as that’s the key window for purchase choice. The resulting heat map of how test shoppers' eyes looked at designs on a computer screen helped the brand make its final design decision.
"There's often a big disconnect between what people want to do and what they say they want to do," commented Steve Posavac, professor of marketing at Vanderbilt University, to the Wall Street Journal, adding that "Any attitude becomes more extreme" in research studies.
Testing consumers' eye movements and gaze interaction dates back to the early 1900’s, but military researchers and other recent technological innovations, along with the decreasing cost of equipment, have fine-tuned the science and the art, dispelling myths about bigger is better on signage and picture-packaging, and prompting broader deployment. Retina-tracking cameras turn raw data into heat maps that use color to track eye movements, while headbands monitor correlative brain-wave activity.
Unilever also used a virtual 3D environment to redesign its Axe body wash bottle. “The results led them to change the bottle's shape from curvy to straight, embed the brand in a black X with blue background to make it more visible and increase the font size of the product description. It also used eye tracking to test shelf space for deodorant, and it recommended that retailers use angled shelves to allow products to slide forward and constantly face front. At one retailer, sales of the deodorant category have increased 3.5%,” notes the WSJ.
"With a virtual shelf set, in a few seconds, with a click of the mouse, you can modify your product, your pack, your display, and really co-create it with the consumer almost in real time," sais Joanne Crudele, Unilever's director of global skin consumer technical insight.
Combining neuroscience and marketing is the still-nascent field of neuromarketing which hit the public radar when Google published its eye-tracking study supporting placement of Google Ads in 2009. And as EyeTracking Inc. noted in a blog post last year, there is still some debate among CPG marketers about whether it's better to use eye-tracking with digital images or actual packages.
In 2010, Ad Age wrote, “Neuromarketing offers a chance to get accurate, factual data about the buying habits of target markets,” but cautioned that, “At the end of the day, neuromarketing is still in its infancy. A technology that is unproven outside of laboratory conditions, prohibitively expensive, and potentially a legal minefield is a technology that requires a lot of capital and a solid brand to experiment with.”
Regardless, the eyes have it as marketing meets technology at the crossroads of sales.
[image via Tobii eye-tracking demo]