Eye tracking sheds light on in-store movement and shoppers’ visual attention

In this shopper study by Hungarian company ET Research, eye tracking was used to explore the influence of in-store movement and walking direction on the visual attention paid to placements, displays and communication messages. The results demonstrated how hard-to-break habitual routes significantly impact gaze orientation.


Molson Coors Central Europe (MCCE) is a part of Molson Coors Brewing Company, which has a rich product portfolio of more than 20 brands including leading local brands such as Staropramen, Borsodi and international brands such as Beck´s, Hoegaarden, Leffe, Stella Artois, brewed or distributed by licence. MCCE's brewery affiliate in Hungary, Borsodi Brewery, wanted to understand their customers' in-store behavior more thoroughly and optimize placement and display of their popular core-lager beer brand, Borsodi. They commissioned ETresearch to conduct an explorative shopper study of in-store movement and visual attention, using mobile eye tracking in a real store environment.

The mobile eye tracking study has provided many useful insights for in-store communication. We got results that we could not obtain through other methods we’d previously used and that we will use in planning our future marketing communication materials.

Zsuzsanna Sükösd, Legal and Corporate Affairs Director at Borsodi Brewery

Eye tracking to measure efficiency of secondary placements and displays

The objective of the study was to evaluate how effectively secondary placements and displays of Borsodi were able to draw shoppers' attention in a chosen supermarket. The largest secondary placement was an aisle at the entrance to the beer section, marked with LAMá displays manufactured by Marin's. Different communication messages, including a campaign, were exposed on the display.

A placement aisle and product display with the areas of interest highlighted.

Research questions:

  • To what extent is the beer's secondary placement in an aisle able to draw shoppers' attention?
  • Which parts of the placement draw more attention? Is it the product, the price or the display with the communication message?
  • Are the communication elements optimally arranged on the display?
  • Which communication elements are more eye catching and which are less?
  • Is the placement able to change the familiar/habitual and automatic shopping process of the consumer?

Eye tracking tools and methods

ETresearch used the Tobii Pro Glasses 1 to measure the efficiency of the placement, display and communication messages.

The three-part study, consisting of an eye tracking part and pre- and post-interview sessions, was conducted in a hypermarket in Budapest, Hungary, during four days of field-work. Seventy respondents, aged 26-59, who had beer on their shopping lists were recruited on the spot as they entered the store.

The respondents were neither told the objective of the study prior to the test nor given any specific tasks to allow researchers to follow authentic shopping journeys and evaluate Molson Coors Central Europe's Borsodi beer placement and display under these circumstances.

A brief pre-interview was held with each respondent to collect basic data (demographics, beer-buying habits, etc.) to filter shoppers for relevant segments. Following a quick calibration of the eye tracking glasses, respondents were instructed to do their planned shopping while wearing the glasses.

The construction and design of Tobii Pro Glasses make them the most comfortable eye tracking glasses for shoppers to wear. Tobii Pro Glasses are easy to use and calibrate for the test leader, which is crucial for reaching the needed sample size of respondents.

Gabor Vizy, Researcher at ETresearch.

After respondents had chosen their beer and left the beer section, the eye tracking glasses were removed and a post-interview involving both open-ended and closed-ended questions conducted to check remembering and recall of what they had seen, communication messages, etc.

A person wearing Tobii Pro Glasses 1 navigates through aisles and displays in the supermarket.

A mobile research lab

As a research aid, ET Research used its MobilET lab, which provided ideal conditions for calibrating the eye tracking glasses and conducting pre-interviews without interfering in the slightest with the shoppers' movements or the functioning of the store.

A mobile eye tracking research lab.

Watch this video with gaze replays from some of the respondents approaching the secondary placement aisle at the entrance of the beer section.

Analysis of the the eye tracking data

Borsodi Brewery found the results of the study useful in various fields. First, eye tracking recordings showed that shoppers' walking direction to a large extent determine their gaze orientation. Shoppers take the same habitual route during their shopping journey because they have no reason to change their typical route. Therefore, their gaze is determined by where they are walking, which means it is very important to take into account shoppers' flow and typical direction of movement.

A gaze plot indicating the percentage of the respondents looking at different placements and displays.
A gaze plot indicating the percentage of the respondents looking at different placements and displays.
A gaze plot indicating the percentage of the respondents looking at different placements and displays.

Second, results showed which parts of the display are effective. They revealed which parts of the display are worth putting communication messages on.

During the study, shoppers were able to approach the display from three directions. Typical gaze patterns could be identified for each direction. Those parts of the display that could not be detected from any direction went completely un-noticed.

These insights would not have been gained without the use of eye tracking, which proves and illustrates the usefulness of this methodology.