Eye Spy - An Eye-Tracking Study of Visual Attention and Memory for Brands at the Point of Purchase

What draws you towards a particular make of footwear displayed on a store wall? What will be the sales impact of a new shelf display? Where in a shelf should you put your brand and how many facings should it have? To understand consumer decisions at the point of purchase or to measure the performance of POP marketing, Professor Pierre Chandon shows that the often-used memory measures are not very informative. He takes a close look at eye-tracking as a valuable way to measure POP marketing effectiveness.

by Pierre Chandon
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

Marketers have long been aware that building brand awareness is particularly important at the point of purchase (store shelf, showroom floor, display case, etc.), because it can help break through the glut of brands, as well as influence the prestige of the advertised brand. Indeed point-of-purchase (POP) advertising has become the fifth largest advertising budget expenditure.

Marketers typically rely on brand recall scores to assess the effectiveness of POP advertising techniques such as brand packaging, in-store displays or shelf signage. A key issue for marketers is to estimate the extent to which these scores are actually driven by consumers’ attention within the store and not by other factors. Pierre Chandon, INSEAD Assistant Professor of Marketing, shows in his recent study that you simply cannot trust the memory when it comes to making low-involvement choices; and if brand recall data cannot be reliably linked to attention at the point of purchase, marketers may look to eye-tracking data to measuring the attention-getting power of POP marketing.

Professor Chandon first develops a set of hypotheses about brand recall, focusing on eye movements at the POP (visual attention affects), the ways in which consumers mentally organize products into groups of types or brands (category structure), and differences between memory measures (unaided or aided recall).

In two studies, he asked 300 adult consumers to look at a slide of a supermarket display of either sixteen fruit juices or 10 laundry detergents. Their eye movements were tracked and they were asked to designate a product they would consider buying. Afterwards, they were asked which brands they remembered seeing, first unaided and a second time with a list of brands in front of them.

The results of the first study demonstrate that brand recall is overwhelmingly driven by brand familiarity and is only affected to a limited extent by whether the brand was actually looked at when the consumer was making the product choice. Those of second study show that brand recall cannot be used as a proxy for attention to the brand, as even large differences in attention across stimuli, consumers, and brands cannot be inferred from recall data.

Just seconds after they chose a fruit juice or a detergent, when people were asked, "What did you look at?" they tried to answer by giving the list of products that they normally buy instead of the products they actually saw. In addition, they were often confused when presented with several varieties of the same product (e.g., Tropicana Pure Premium and Tropicana Pure Tropic juice), thinking that they looked at the more familiar variety when in fact they were gazing at the less familiar one.

Professor Chandon concludes that although recall data can still be useful as an indirect measure of brand consideration, eye-tracking enables marketers to know whether or not a brand in a supermarket display has been noted by the consumer. Thus, the conclusions from decades of study of consumer attention and memory for advertisements cannot be directly extrapolated to memory for brands at the point of purchase.

This study also prompts further research about the entire choice process at the point of purchase.

INSEAD 2002

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