Eye tracking in retail: is it right for your brand?

Imagine being able to see exactly how your potential customers view your products. It may sound impossible, but this is what eye tracking software allows you to do. So it’s no wonder that this technology is becoming increasingly popular with brands for product testing. With marketers under growing pressure to base their decisions on solid data, eye tracking can provide vital insight to give product packaging and placement even more impact. But how do you know if this advanced technology is right for your brand? As this is a question we’re frequently asked, we’ve outlined some of the main issues below to help you decide.

What is eye tracking? 

In simple terms, eye tracking is a way of detecting what the user’s eye is attracted to. The technology involves the consumer wearing special glasses or using technology mounted on a screen which projects a proposed shelf layout. As we’ll see, each method has its particular strengths and weaknesses.

  1. Glasses

The first option with eye tracking is to ask the user to wear special glasses which actually track their retina response. While these provide accurate data, there is a small risk of the user being self-conscious which may potentially alter their natural responses and affect the results.

  1. Screen projection

The alternative to physically wearing glasses is a peripheral tracker with an image of the shelf projected onto a screen. However, this takes some calibration to gain accurate results.  Again, it’s not a natural environment so the results may be biased.

A more natural insight into client perception?

Eye tracking can be a valuable advantage in a market research campaign. It provides that additional insight into how your customers will respond to your products when they’re actually in store – all adding up to a better-informed marketing strategy. As “the Father of Advertising”, David Ogilvy, once said:

“The trouble with market research is that people don’t think how they feel, they don’t say what they think and they don’t do what they say.”

As this quote reminds us, there’s always a risk of ‘bias’ in market research, because participants often worry about the impression they’re giving. This can affect their responses, particularly when there’s a researcher watching over them! However, eye tracking can give extra insight to help create accurate data and a more finely-tuned campaign.  After all, it’s a lot more difficult to control eye gaze, which means that the data gained through eye tracking can prove more “natural” and valuable.

When is eye tracking technology appropriate for your brand? 

While it’s not a good idea to generalise, the following criteria may help you assess whether eye tracking is right for you. It may be appropriate for your product if:

  1. You have a large product range or your product competes on-shelf with a number of similar products.
  2. Your product sales are heavily reliant on the initial impulse response in the first 10 seconds when approaching a retail display. Eye tracking is ideal for assessing what people notice in those crucial first few seconds during which they make the decision between picking the product up and moving on.
  3. You are targeting a male or male-dominated demographic. This is because the male shopper typically take less time to decide whether or not to pick up a product, so engaging them in those first 10 seconds becomes even more important.

Eye before they buy?

Back to the question we’re often asked: is it worth using eye tracking technology for consumer research in retail? Our answer is yes, as part of a strategic research campaign, if you have the budget and your products are in a competitive, shelf-based retail environment and if you monitor carefully for any risk of bias. This will ensure that you get the best out of eye tracking software – an accurate insight into how your potential customers will see and respond to your product in store.

What’s your take on eye tracking technology? Let us know by sharing your comments below!
Eye Tracking in retail: is it right for your brand?

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