With Wall Street’s 2017 retail sector roller coaster and black Friday just around the corner, it’s time for brick and mortar retailers to reconnect with their customers. The retail industry is highly competitive, and store owners will do virtually anything to get an advantage over other operators in the marketplace. However, they’re talking to customers in an echo chamber of aggressive salespeople, crowded shelf space, and no feedback loop from their store visitors.
While a retailer can take steps to enhance the customer experience with colorful displays, pleasant aesthetics and easy navigation, it’s hard to be certain about the success of these ventures. Science offers an interesting solution to this problem, as eye tracking hardware has become a valuable tool in the research process.
Ocular motion is one of the most instinctive processes in the human body, and as such, it’s nearly impossible to fake a reaction. When an object, sound or other stimulus presents itself, the natural inclination is to look in that direction. Researchers can monitor this reaction by using specialized glasses that record eye movement in order to learn more about the things that attract attention. A retail owner can take this information and capitalize on it in a few different ways.
Placement of Merchandise
The customer experience starts the instant a shopper walks into the building, and that’s when the first step in eye tracking research begins. What’s the first thing you notice when you walk into a supermarket or department store? If a researcher uses a large enough group of people, he or she will eventually start to see a pattern emerge. Is there a certain spot where most customers glance in those first few moments inside? The owner can use this information to his or her advantage with several distinct techniques:
· Placing slower-moving merchandise in this preferred spot to generate stronger sales
· Using this place of honor to highlight popular items desired by customers
· Attempting to recreate the attractive features in other parts of the store
Part of the customer experience is the ability to wander throughout the retail center in a search for the best deals, but it’s impossible to know about every product in the entire store. To educate consumers, retailers highlight various items with printed and digital advertisements. While you can conduct research via surveys to gauge the effectiveness of these materials, technology offers a much more accurate solution. Eye tracking can monitor how long a shopper looks at a particular advertisement, which can tell a retailer if the intended audience is ignoring it or paying attention.
Easy navigability is a crucial ingredient of a good retail customer experience, as a shopper might be more tempted to leave a poorly organized store when time is of the essence. By using eye tracking devices for research, you can study the way customers go about browsing your aisles and even record the time it takes for a guest to find a specific item on his or her list. You want to create a layout that encourages your shoppers to spend more time in the aisles but don’t want to design a frustrating floor plan in the pursuit of that goal.
Get forty customers to sit in an eye tracking lab with a reputable research firm and have them look over your website. Have shoppers go through the e-commerce purchasing journey while doing a think aloud as they look around your site. These sessions will reveal the battle of preference vs. behavior--a customer may say what they want in an experience, but the eyes will inform how you better serve them and just how all that promotional content may be getting ignored (plus you'll learn how to increase your sales and keep them coming back happier). While there is software that will predict where a customer will engage with your website content, these are often wrong. However, as UX guru Jakob Nielsen will tell you, just thirty-nine (39) users of your site can directionally guide your e-commerce experience.
See the Future
While eye tracking technology offers plenty of market research promise, retail owners are only beginning to scratch the surface on how to better the customer experience. The information gathered by these devices offers a true glimpse into human instincts, and it can go a long way to help store owners provide what customers actually want.
[Reposted on LinkedIn].