Triggering the First Moment of Truth
Broad Visual Processing Increases Unplanned Spending
The typical supermarket offers 10,000 or more different SKUs – with less than 1 in 1,000 products actually finding their way into the average shopper’s basket. Items which a specific shopper plans to buy therefore make up a tiny fraction of a retailer’s assortment. A key question for retailers is how to motivate shoppers to explore shelves and visit more areas of the store to stimulate unplanned purchasing? Apart from creative store layouts or mobile coupons another option is to broaden shopper’s visual attention.
Attentional breadth describes the focus of people in processing visual scenes. A team of researchers recently showed that it is possible to activate more narrow or more broad attention which then results in different levels of exploratory shopping and the amount spent on unplanned items. In one of a series of experiments, 100 shoppers, before entering a store, provided the researchers with a list of products they planned to purchase. Then they were shown 20 pairs of objects (one in the middle of a screen, one in a random corner of the screen). To induce a narrow vs a broad mindset, half of them (randomly allocated) had to name the object in the center, the other half the object in the corner of the screen.
After their shopping trips, purchased items were compared with the shopper’s initial list. The broad attention group spent significantly more on unplanned items than the narrow attention group. In addition, the study shows that this effect is a consequence of more exploration, both in terms of distance covered (shoppers explore areas they otherwise would not see) and area of the shelf inspected. Also, the effect is larger for impulsive shoppers. Retailers in-store or online displays provide an easy opportunity to enhance attentional breadth (by showing items away from the screen’s center). Shoppers which realize they buy excessively could also reduce that impulse by triggering narrow attention before shopping (by focusing on the center of a screen).
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