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EXPRESS: Understanding Lateral and Vertical Biases in Consumer Attention: An In-Store Ambulatory Eye-Tracking Study
Journal of Marketing Research  (IF5),  Pub Date : 2021-02-10, DOI: 10.1177/0022243721998375
Ming Chen, Raymond R. Burke, Sam K. Hui, Alex Leykin

Given the conventional wisdom that “unseen is unsold,” retail practitioners are keenly interested in understanding consumers’ attention to products in the store. Using in-store ambulatory eye-tracking, we investigate the extent to which lateral and vertical biases drive consumers’ attention in a grocery store environment. Our dataset offers a complete picture of not only where the shopper is located, but also the shopper’s field of view and visual fixations during the trip. Using our novel dataset, we address two research questions: First, do shoppers have a higher propensity to pay attention to products on their left or right side as they traverse an aisle (i.e., is the right side the “right side”)? Second, do shoppers tend to pay more attention to products at their eye level (i.e., is eye-level “buy-level”)? We utilize the exogenous variations in the direction by which shoppers traverse an aisle (northward vs southward), obtainable from their shopping paths, to identify lateral bias. The exogenous variation of shoppers’ eye-level positions, due to their differences in height, is used to identify vertical bias. We find that shoppers pay more attention to products on their right side when traversing an aisle, and this bias holds for both right- and left-handed shoppers. Contrary to many practitioners’ belief, we find that eye-level is not “buy-level”; rather, the product level that has the highest propensity to capture shoppers’ attention is about 14.7 inches below eye-level (which is around chest level). Further, this vertical bias becomes more prominent during the latter part of a shopping trip.