Shopping Myths and Insights Shopping Myths Busted Shopper insights considered tested and true have changed. Learn how consumers actually shop through their own eyes.

Over the last decade shopper research has delivered many insights which have been accepted by marketing departments in retail and brand companies as facts. Many shopper marketing strategies and in-store activations have been developed and executed based on those truths considered to be immutable laws by the marketing community. In many cases the store environments have changed dramatically impacting the dynamics between shoppers, stores and products. Innovative new research methodologies like eye tracking and neuroscience have helped us get a better understanding of many of the insights considered immutable for many years. Therefore, the time has come to review and challenge these shopping myths. In this whitepaper we will focus on five shopping myths and deliver a new perspective on each one. These myths explore the following key shopping criteria: entrance, time, choice, children, and categories. There are more than five myths but these are the first we will explore: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Signage at the entrance works very well to inform and entice shoppers The more time a shopper spends in a category the more she/he buys The larger the choice the more consumers buy Mothers shopping with children buy more Consumers shop each category differently

For each of those shopping myths we will focus on the following: Beliefs Behind the Myth  Explore the beliefs and logic behind each shopping myth New Insights From Eye Tracking Studies  Learn how eye tracking shopper research is used to re-examine shopper behavior and attitude  Discuss reasons why certain insights about shopper behaviors are no longer valid  Understand the new truths about certain established shopper research insights

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1. Signage at the entrance works very well to inform and entice shoppers Current Beliefs As you enter a retail store there is a myriad of signs, displays and announcements – outside the store, on the door or right inside the door. The intention is to stimulate, inform and entice the shopper. The belief is that if you inform the shopper early in the shopping trip the shopper will have time to act on the message during shopping or right away in case of a display. Because of this myth brand companies and retailers invest a lot of money into early shopping trip communication. New Insights There is a very fine line between communication at the entrance being noticed and being a waste of money. The keys to effectiveness are the specific location at the store entrance/lobby and the phase of the shopping process. Our eye tracking research shows that shoppers are not ready to look at any communication until they feel prepared for shopping. In our research feeling prepared occurs when the shopper has their shopping cart and the shopping list in hand. When the shopping carts are located inside the store signs at the door were viewed by only 10% of shoppers as shoppers passed them on their way to the carts. When the shopping carts were located outside the door the same signs at the door were viewed by twice as many shoppers. During shopping trips, shoppers primarily notice signs that aid their shopping mission. 100% 85% Viewing sign Shoppers are looking to make their journey 80% Reading sign 65% as efficient as possible and therefore are 60% 55% 60% seeking way-finding signs to makes shopping 40% easier for them. The effectiveness of signs is 20% 20% not due to the sign vehicle or type of sign, but 8% 8% 3% rather the sign’s placement, density of 0% Entrance Aisles Checkout Exit signage and sign content. Signs that are placed too high are not seen. Signs that are surrounded by other signs in high density tend not to be noticed. Sign content that is most interesting to shoppers includes price and product information in addition to way-finding. Shoppers react differently to signage during different stages of the shopping trip (entering, shopping, checkout, and exit). Shoppers notice fewer signs at checkout which is when they switch from hunting mode to exit mode (getting out quickly). Percent Shoppers

Shoppers viewing and reading signs

Once the shopper has her cart she is on her path-to-purchase. The next myth is about one of the most important yet misinterpreted criteria in the shopping process: TIME.

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2. The more time a shopper spends in a category the more she/he buys Current Beliefs Planogram layouts and on-shelf communication aim to influence shoppers’ decisions, trying to attract them to and keep them in the category thereby increasing the amount that they spend. They are based on the assumption that shoppers are making decisions in-store, considering choices and weighing options. But for most shoppers the purchase process has little to do with decision-making and everything to do with finding what the shopper has already decided to buy. Shoppers spend the vast majority of their time at the shelf searching for the product they know they want – and when they are busy searching for specific products they are not open to influence; in fact, they are effectively blind to anything not relevant to the task at hand. Purchasing data from a TNS report (Stop interrupting Shoppers) shows that 69 percent of supermarket shoppers buy the same brand as they did last time they purchased from a category – and 45 percent buy exactly the same product.

Seconds in Category

New Insights Our eye tracking research (see graph) Seconds in Category and Products Purchased shows that the time shoppers spend in 3 200 a category does not have a direct 168 2 Products Purchased relationship to the quantity of products 150 3 2 2 they buy. The size of the category and 99 98 4 95 2 100 1 number of sku’s is a factor, but the 65 62 48 categories shown in the graph are all 50 quite sizeable. According to our 0 research shoppers spend between 50 Salty Cereal Soft Drinks Packaged Candy Salad Juice Snacks Satad Dressing to 170 seconds in those different categories, but only buy about 2-3 products on average per category.

Number of Items

The way to open the minds of shoppers isn’t to interrupt or extend their search. Instead, it’s to help them complete it and work with the shopper’s agenda rather than trying to change it. This may seem counter-intuitive. If shoppers find their item quickly, won’t they just walk away from the category without considering anything else? The Number of items purchased based surprising answer is no. TNS’s research shows that on time finding first product 5 4.5 shoppers that find their first item quickly are more likely to 4 buy additional items from the same category. The chart to 3.1 2.9 2.8 the left shows that for shoppers who find their first item 3 within 10 seconds, the average number of items going into 2 their basket increases by 60%. 1 0 0-10




Having explored a key myth about time, the next myth is about another key criterion: CHOICE.

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3. The larger the choice the more consumers buy Current Beliefs An average supermarket today stocks 20-30,000 SKUs and for a hypermarket that number can go as high as 50,000. The growth of SKUs was driven by brand manufacturers and retailers trying to produce and carry everything for everybody giving shoppers the largest choice possible. This resulted in a situation where many categories such as salty snacks, soft drinks, candy and even shampoo, detergent and toothpaste carry more flavors and variants than one can count or remember. This allows shoppers to purchase products that meet each shopper’s specific needs. New Insights Eye tracking results from many categories has shown that shoppers are overwhelmed by so many choices. Although people are inherently attracted to having lots of choices, when it comes to actually choosing from a large number of options, people often find themselves paralyzed and unable to make a decision. Decision making involves three distinct mental tasks:  Knowing what you want;  Understanding what options are available;  Making tradeoffs between the available options. People feel most confident in their decisions when they understand the available options and can comfortably compare and evaluate each one. As the number of available options and information about those options increase, people tend to process less information about each option. The first chart on the left shows % Evaluating the percentage of shoppers evaluating packaged salad products for purchase and the second chart shows the percentage of shoppers % Purchasing actually purchasing (the darker the color the higher the percentage). The data clearly shows that shoppers tend to evaluate products in sections where better known brands are and tend to buy products from those sections. Many shoppers evaluate several products but are so overwhelmed that they revert to purchasing the known, tested and trusted. Neuroscience data has also shown that shoppers become more and more negative as they move through the shopping process in a category with overwhelming choices. Another research study showed that busy women who don’t have a lot of time to shop prefer stores with limited selections, such as Costco, Coach, Trader Joe's and Sephora. The next myth relates to the main shopper: Mothers with children.

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4. Mothers shopping with children buy more Current Beliefs Advertisers spend millions in ads directed towards children, which is based on the belief that children influence their parents' buying behavior. When children and their parents were observed shopping in a supermarket, children were successful in influencing their parents' purchase of cereal and candy in 61% and 52% of the times attempted, respectively. This information has been used to support the belief that mothers shopping with kids buy more than mothers shopping alone.

Percent of shoppers

New Insights In a recent eye tracking study of categories typically prone to kids’ pestering mothers were observed shopping with and without their kids. The study showed that a large percentage of mothers bought more products while shopping without their kids. When shopping with kids mothers spent more time in both categories – cereal and juice. In a surprise finding mothers bought more when shopping without their children despite the decrease in time spent shopping in the category. In cereal mothers Percent of Mothers Buying shopping alone bought 14% more Alone With Kids 40% units and in juice mothers 34% shopping without kids bought 29% 30% 26% 26% 25% 25% more units. This further supports 20% 20% new insights from Myth #2 that 9% 9% 9% time spent shopping in a category 10% 7% 7% does not have a direct relationship 0% 0% to number of items purchased. Brand A Brand B Other Brands Brand A Brand B Other Brands Cereal


The data also shows that mothers shopping alone tend to buy the leading brands and mothers shopping with kids tend to buy other brands. We also found that mothers shopping without kids tend to buy the healthier products. The last myth we are exploring in this whitepaper is about shopper behavior across different categories.

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5. Consumers shop each category differently Current Beliefs Generally, brand manufacturers and category managers treat each brand and category differently when it comes to planograms, displays, layouts, on-shelf communication, etc. because of the overriding assumption that each category is shopped differently by consumers. New Insights What we have seen in many eye tracking studies is that the process of shopping is the same no matter the category. When shoppers enter a category they use quick glances to try and find what they are looking for. The shopper uses the store guidance systems to navigate. Once the shopper has reached the general area where the product is thought to be located the shopper starts to evaluate different products and offers. In this phase the package design is a key anchor point. Once the shopper starts the core selection process by picking up products, the information on the package becomes influential. This of course is a general process. In certain instances a shopper might leave out certain phases and jump across the whole process in one swoop. Below is a summary of the four phases:


The process can change depending on the main purchase criteria in a category. Shopping in categories driven by brands typically shows a shorter evaluation and selection phase than shopping in categories driven mainly by flavor selection. Eye tracking shows that there is quite a difference among categories in how long shoppers consider products before they purchase. This is irrespective of whether the category is shopped by brand or flavor. Other criteria come into play: for example, the packaging. Time Spent Considering Each Product (seconds) 9.0

Considered Didn't Purchase Considered Purchased 2.7 1.3



Chilled Juice




Main Purchase Criteria 100% 17%

Percent of shoppers



80% 68%



By Brand

By Flavor 40%





0% Cereal

Chilled Juice

Salad Dressing

Cereal packages are typically considered longer because of the abundance of information on the packages and the tendency to buy cereal based on flavor not brand. Therefore the evaluation part of the process becomes longer as shown in the chart to the left. Chilled juice and salad dressing have much faster decision times as shoppers look for their preferred brand without evaluating all choices. Despite differences in time considered

Salad Dressing

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the basic four step process of notice, evaluate, select and buy still applies to all categories. Entrance, Time, Choice, Children, Categories – the insights about each one of those key shopping criteria has been considered a given. Eye tracking studies challenge established beliefs to uncover new insights and related business opportunities.

Conclusions Eye tracking can reveal a lot of information and insights that are hidden in plain view of most other conventional research techniques like observation and store interviews. Many times people tell us that shopping a certain category is easy and simple, but eye tracking activity often shows that people have difficulties which they are not consciously aware of and therefore cannot put into words. People can recall brands they know (awareness) but are unable to recall precisely what products they considered when shopping certain categories. Some of the shopper marketing community’s most widely held beliefs about shoppers and shopping behavior are no longer true. Shopper insight studies incorporating eye tracking have been particularly useful to reveal what actually happens in-store versus what consumers might say happened in a post-shopping survey. In this whitepaper we have seen the following: 1. Signage and advertisements near the entrance of stores are generally not seen by customers as they are focused on getting their carts or exiting. 2. Shoppers buy more when they can easily find what they want and buy less when their time is wasted navigating the store and searching in an overcrowded category. 3. Too many choices have resulted in a backlash where some consumers give up and buy what is familiar rather than wading through all the choices. 4. Although children do influence mothers’ buying, it does not necessarily result in mothers buying more products. 5. At a basic level, the process of shopping in all categories follows the same four phases of noticing, evaluating, selecting and buying. All of these insights have implications for store design, shelf planograms, and promotions. Knowing the new reality gives you a clear advantage in the quest to promote new products, increase sales, and satisfy shoppers. For more information please contact: Kirk Hendrickson, Co-Founder & CEO Eye Faster, LLC 1615 Bonanza Street, Suite 201 Walnut Creek, CA 94596 [email protected] (925) 452-4976

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