It’s All in the Eyes: Retailers Tracking Shoppers’ Retinas

by | July 13, 2012 at 12:49 PM | General

(iStockphoto)

Have you ever walked into a store and immediately been asked, “Can I help you with anything today?” The chances are very likely. However, according to the Wall Street Journal, retailers are starting to test out a new type of tool that will decrease the likelihood of hearing this repetitive question: eye-tracking technology.

In this economy, consumers are most hesitant about the practicality of a purchase and/or if it’s worth the buck. Customers go back and forth between aisles, and sales associates are baffled as to how they can really help customers make a decision about their purchase. Therefore, this new technology will allow retailers to see what really draws the attention of the shopper. Are shoppers attracted to big displays with bright colors? Or are shoppers more drawn to simplistic layouts? This new technology is going to help answer these questions, and inevitably help companies come up with the more successful product and shelf layouts to enhance sales.

Companies such as Proctor & Gamble Co., Unilever, and Kimberly-Clark Corp. have already started working with this incredible technology. In essence, these companies are combining three-dimensional computer stimulations of product displays paired with the eye-tracking device. Kimberly-Clark has already used this tactic in testing the new exterior of their paper towels three years ago. They were able to see which designs were recognized by more shoppers, and what they finally placed in their shopping carts. According to their results, researchers at Kimberly-Clark were realized that a ‘wave’ design was more appealing to the consumer compared to the ‘splash’ design.

Although there has been much research on testing eye movements since the ‘90s, this enhanced technology has been able to successfully decipher where people are looking, for how long, and how often. Furthermore, this has been able to help retailers alter displays according to what shoppers are really attracted to, in contrast to what they may say sometimes. It has been discovered that even though companies believe a larger image on a package is better, researchers at the University of Maryland recognized that the eye can process images so quickly that the size doesn’t actually matter.

In addition to working with eye movements, companies have also tested out brain-wave activities of shoppers in order to see which designs trigger delightful responses. The study of facial expressions has also been examined to see which designs trigger a positive emotional reaction.

Moreover, these novel technologies have evidently been able to help increase sales among several different companies. Unilever’s sales of deodorant increased 3.5% after a change to the bottle’s shape, font size and product display. With the heightened amount of sales that this new technology may bring, you can expect to hear more about companies working with this incredible marketing tool.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.