Much shopper behaviour is controlled by subconscious processes. An experienced shopper is able to navigate a store and identify products and brands quickly and efficiently, without paying too much attention. This is important because paying attention is tiring and requires effort. Unfortunately, because shoppers are, by definition, unaware of their unconscious behaviour when in-store, they are unable to describe it in conventional research like focus groups and interviews.
Science and technology have provided new, objective methods of generating behavioural insights. Covert CCTV cameras can be used to record shopper behaviour over time: these recordings can be analysed and turned into metrics that demonstrate the efficiency of a display in converting shoppers into buyers, and enable us to identify bridges and barriers to purchase that exist at point-of-sale. Cameras can also be used to record and compare shopping behaviour before and after changes to a display, or to evaluate differences in shopper behaviour between shops.
Eye tracking allows us to understand shoppers’ visual interactions with displays and in-store communication (such as point-of-sale items, pricing information and packaging),
by measuring eye contacts and fixations that are too rapid to make it through to our consciousness. We regularly use two forms of eye tracker:
• Eye tracking goggles allow us to track shoppers’ visual interaction with the retail environment, in real-time, as they journey through the store.
• Static, ‘desk-based’ eye tracking systems are ideal for pre-testing alternative design ideas for packaging, point-of-sale and other visual communication Eye tracking can also help branded manufacturers identify visual cues that drive brand recognition. Such cues are not always self evident and, as recognition is a subconscious process, it can be difficult to understand using conventional research. If key recognition cues are lost in a redesign, a brand can be rendered invisible.
Video observation of shoppers as well as static and mobile eye tracking are now established ways of understanding shopper behaviour without relying on subjective self-reporting by individuals.
Looking forward, new and exciting scientific research methods are moving out of the laboratory and into commercial use. New ‘neuro-marketing’ technologies include bio-metric measurement of variables like heart rate, respiration and perspiration as indicators of emotional response, and electroencephalography (EEG) which measures brain activity.
For many of these techniques, it is early days in terms of portability of equipment and interpretation of data. However these issues will be resolved with experience and, as ever, early adopters are likely to benefit most from the new insights they deliver into shopper behaviour.