Marketers have long been trying to get at what shoppers really think and how they make their decisions to purchase a specific product. In the past several years, researchers have been measuring brain waves as shoppers go through the aisles of a store. Now, they are looking at eye movements.
It turns out the frequently-used focus group strategy has a built-in bias. Participants want to please their testers. To get around that problem, large consumer product manufacturers are entering the virtual reality world by designing simulations of a store complete with products placed on shelves. Testers then go on a virtual shopping trip using computer screens that are capable of tracking retina movements. In this way, researchers can discover which product attracts a shopper immediately and which product is placed in the cart. Researchers believe that humans, when presented with an array of products, will look at what they find attractive or interesting first. Emily Glazer, writing for the Wall Street Journal, notes the researchers’ “goal was to find which designs got noticed in the first 10 seconds a shopper looked at a shelf.”
The results of this research have been instructive for product and packaging designers. For example, from a marketing perspective, designers typically include a large image on packaging. According to Michel Wedel, professor of consumer science at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, the eye’s ability to transmit images quickly to the brain negates the need for considering image size. Product designers have also used this retina tracking technique to determine which shapes and sizes of packages are most appealing to shoppers.
Details like package color, size and shape, in addition to traditional advertising and social media outreach, all play a role in branding and in building revenue. As technology like retina-tracking becomes more affordable, marketers may be able to quickly determine the optimal features for packaging when rolling out a new or updated product.[Source: Glazer, Emily. The Eyes Have It. Online.wsj.com. 12 Jul. 2012. Web. 28 Jul. 2012]