How to Get a Better Understanding of Shopper Behavior Through Eye Tracking

Buyer behavior is at the root of many informed business decisions – and it’s becoming harder and harder to understand why people buy and what really is behind every purchasing decision.

If you’re one of the companies in the constant pursuit of understanding how customers act and think before buying, forget about guesswork and intuition – you will need accurate data about the shopper’s habits.

Today’s buyer is savvy and often unpredictable. There are a few key moments to try to observe buyer’s behavior whether online, before buying, at the moment of purchase or post-purchase.

In this article we will reveal how you can better understand the shopper’s way of thinking at the moment of purchase. Everybody is different, but some patterns exist to help you optimize their paths to purchase.

Read on if you want to know how you can better gather data that powers observation, analysis and buyer behavior understanding through 3D eye tracking.

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First of all, What Is Buyer Behavior?

If buyer behavior used to represent all the activities that consumers and businesses do in order to buy, use and dispose of goods or services, it has since developed into much more than that. It examines the consumers’ shopping habits from their first contact with a company until the final purchase and even post-purchase. It includes the buyer’s emotional, mental and behavioral responses when engaging with a company or brand. And it blends notions and elements from psychology, sociology, anthropology, marketing, economics and behavioral economics.

Why Is It Important to Understand Shoppers?

When developing the marketing mix for your product, it is quintessential to know the perceptions, attitudes and actions people have and take when buying your products.

Once marketers  discover how customers behave, they can make informed marketing decisions. All promotions, product launches, advertising activities should be influenced by the study of buyer behavior. 

Let’s dig a little deeper into what influences buyers’ shopping behavior.

What Influences Purchase Behavior?

The first thing you should know about buyer behavior is that there are internal and external factors that influence how a shopper behaves

The internal factors deal with variables like the consumer’s personality, perception, values and self-image. For example, a country manager of an important financial company might buy an expensive car, because it fits his self-image. Sales reps and marketing managers need to analyze these variables when developing marketing campaigns for their products.

The external factors divide into:

  • cultural & social factors: consumers have the tendency to imitate other people they admire or take their opinion into account
  • point of purchase factors: the shopper’s behavior is affected by aspects that can be controlled by the marketing managers or retailers, such as: the way a product feels and looks, its packaging, the store’s layout, product placement and planograms, advertising and promotions, client service, background music and others.

In order to find out how to optimize the external factors that influence buyer behavior – and increase sales and better the customer experience – it is necessary to analyze shopper behavior to determine what produces the best results for a specific product and within a specific store.

Where Can You Analyze Buyer Shopping Behavior?

Omnichannel is the word of the day. In other words, observing shopper behavior online and offline. The way consumers research and purchase products is a mixture of online (what website they came from, what pages they browsed, what products they clicked on, how much time they spent on certain pages and when and how the final purchase was made) and offline activity or in-store (on which we will expand on in the following chapter). 

That is why, marketing managers, research agencies and retailers should make sure they analyze the way the shopper interacts with their brands and products through these channels, holistically.

This article is aimed at offering buyer behavior analysis solutions for in-store retail, so we will continue by exemplifying some tools through which shopper behavior can be understood at the offline point of purchase.

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How Can You Measure and Analyze Buyer Shopping Behavior In-store?

When it comes to observing consumer shopping behavior in the store environment, most retailers use solutions like:

  • Modern POS: some modern point of sales system are created not only for selling different items, but for generating reports and metrics like customer counts, sales trends, profit margins and more
  • Foot traffic analytics solutions: these come in the form of people counters and beacons – helping retailers make deductions about how good a navigation system or a store design is 
  • Smart carts with location beacons
  • The store’s Wi-Fi network: to see how many shoppers come into the store and what areas they visited
  • Visual systems (camera systems, optical 3D sensors)

Going from Rational Shopper Data to Emotional Shopper Behavior

Counting the number of people entering a store, identify demographics like age and gender or track the movement of people within a store are all important for your brand or store.

However, you also need tools that measure the emotional state of your consumers. Much of the decisions made by people are guided by emotional or instinctive response. 

As we have stated in the early stages of the article, analyzing shopper behavior means dealing with internal human decision factors, like: values, self-image and perception.

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In order to grasp how a buyer perceives your product, you need to be able to analyze his reactions while engaging with the product.

A new and early adopted way of observing, measuring and analyzing buyer behavior comes in the form of AI based technology that rely on face detection and eye tracking.

The 3D eye tracking technology is one of these AI based technologies, that enables you to do shopper behavior research, while making sure that privacy remains a priority.

This technology will help you get answers, in real-time, to questions like:

  • Did the buyer see my product?
  • If he saw it, did he consider it or just glanced at it?
  • How many times did he look at the product?
  • Did he see the competition’s product as well? If yes, did he compare them? How much time did he spend looking at my product vs. the competition’s product?

By analyzing this type  of buyer behavior and attention, you have access to real-time insights and trends that lead to making data-driven decisions.

Using 3D Eye Tracking to Measure Buyer Visual Behavior

Eye tracking is widely used on and offline to study how shoppers interact with products or spaces and to understand what products, promotions and designs capture attention. 

The reason why eye tracking is recommended to research the shopper’s behavior is that our eyes are the primary way we engage with the marketplace.

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So far, eye-tracking has mostly been done by using special glasses or headsets. These are given to customers or mystery shoppers to be worn during the shopping process. 

However, eye tracking through traditional glasses can bias shopper behavior, as the subject is aware of the fact that his actions are followed and analyzed. Thus, the consumer’s actions won’t be as authentic and raw as you would want them to be. Under known supervision, the buyer’s actions are, involuntarily, somewhat over thought and altered by post-rationalization.

How 3D Eye Tracking Works

And this is where 3D eye tracking comes in, a new way of measuring attention in a non intrusive, anonymous way, capturing the true and unaltered shopper behavior – how they naturally act at the shelf.

At Eyeware, we took market research and eye-tracking a step further and created a way to collect data on shopper attention using 3D eye-tracking, which remotely tracks visual attention from as far as 1.3m (4.3 ft) away. 

This means:

  • No glasses – it is a non-intrusive method
  • No VR headset – the shopper is not burdened by any heavy objects during shopping
  • No personal approach with the shopper – it is all anonymous and GDPR friendly 

Using off the shelf depth-sensing cameras, it allows you to track multiple subjects, label objects of interest (shelves, displays or other merchandising items) in the open space and track attention towards them in real-time, with the help of GazeSense, a 3D eye tracking software created to be able to map your store or your point of analysis (shelf display, products etc.).

By placing a discreet sensor on the shelf or point of sale, shopper attention data can be provided in real time or stored for later analysis.

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Having Access to the Unconscious Buying Behavior and Consumer Habits

Human decisions are not as rational as we would like them to be. The majority of human behavior begins at an unconscious level. These automatic processes, including behavioral mimicry also impact attitudes, beliefs and goals without engaging consumers’ conscious minds. 

Consumer habits, a type of automaticity, are also behaviors affected by contextual stimuli; habits that happen independent from our intentions and control, to some level, and it is how consumers make brand decisions in the context of their daily lives. This was one of the key findings for one of our clients, after conducting a 3D eye tracking study.

The study revealed shoppers were on autopilot. They typically spent under a minute in the aisle and grabbed a single product. Shoppers were frequently buying whichever brand they saw first and not necessarily finding “their brand”, revealing that their buying criteria was primarily based on first observed. Prolonged consideration was not common.

The Type of Buyer Behaviour You Can Collect Through a 3D Eye Tracking Study

By using 3D eye tracking you can see how shoppers interact with products on the shelf. 

How? By analyzing fixations, gaze points, revisits and other eye movement behaviours. This way, you will have insight into the shoppers’ buying behaviour and be able to find out:

  • What emotional responses do buyers have throughout their shopping experience. Emotion is what really drives the purchasing behaviors; human beings are not as logical as we might imagine – eye movements are raw, unaltered indicators for how people are really perceiving a product
  • How impulsive the buyer is
  • How genders react to what you’re marketing
  • How your displays or promotions are performing
  • How many of your shoppers turn into buyers
  • Where shoppers spend the most time choosing
  • What captures their attention at the shelf, whether that’s from your display or your competition‘s promo
  • The difference between what buyers say they do during focus groups or surveys and what they actually do
  • If it’s worth investing in special displays
  • Whether your new packaging is visible enough and desirable

All of the above types of shopper insights can demystify their behavior and help you take data-driven decisions towards influencing their path to purchase.

Wrap Up: Trust the Buyer’s Words, but Most of All, Trust the Buyer’s Behavior

As we have seen, having access to what influences a consumer’s buying process tells companies about their own products and about their competitors as well. Companies can discover the attributes and features that buyers value most when comparing two different brands. 

So, it is recommended to assess not only the rational perceptions of potential buyers and buyers (by conducting traditional market research, such as focus groups), but also the unconscious and unaltered perceptions and impulses, if you really want to make a difference and discover which products and what features are providing the largest return on investment. 

We can assist you in gaining competitive advantage with a better understanding of buyer behavior. Reach out to the Eyeware Team and we will be glad to help you try real-time 3D eye tracking!