Associate Professor and Director of John Molson School of Business' (JMSB) Centre for Multidisciplinary Behavioural Business Research, Onur Bodur was recently interviewed by the BBC about his research, which shows that consumers are unconsciously attracted to products placed in the horizontal centre of a display.
A study forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Research, co-authored by Bodur and marketing researchers at HEC in France and the Aston Business School in England, suggests that where a product is placed on a display shelf influences consumer decision-making. The shopper’s eye, according to the study, has a very central focus.
“Consumers are more likely to purchase products placed in the middle of a display – without even being aware of it,” says Bodur.
Using eye-tracking devices, Bodur and his colleagues investigated how location influences choices for products as varied as vitamins, meal replacement bars, and energy drinks.
They found that consumers would increase their visual focus on the central option in a product display area in the final five seconds of the decision-making process – and that was the point at which they determined which option to choose.
It turns out that the process is a subconscious one. When asked how they had come to decide on what product to buy, consumers did not accurately recall their choice process. What’s more, they were not aware of any conscious visual focus on one area of the display over another.
What does uncovering these unconscious habits mean this mean for the average shopper? Greater awareness of buying behaviours should lead to more informed choices. Says Bodur, “by using this newfound knowledge that visual attention is naturally drawn to the center of a display, consumers can consciously train themselves to make a more thorough visual scan of what’s on offer.”
When it comes to shopping, the visual equivalent to thinking outside of the box just might lead to savvier selections.