CHICAGO: Manufacturers keen to ensure their products have the most visible positioning on supermarket shelves may also have to take account of research that suggests the direction consumers are looking may influence purchase decisions.

A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research explored the idea that people perceive products differently depending on whether they are looking up or down at them.

Consumers were asked to look either down or up when choosing between two printers, one of which was described as "very reliable" (a specific feature) and the other as "high quality" (a more general description).

Those consumers who looked down were found to be more likely to select the reliable printer, whereas consumers who looked up were more likely to select the high quality printer.

"Consumers may be so used to paying detailed and focused attention when they are looking down that they might also do this when selecting a product from a low shelf," the report said.

"Similarly, consumers may be so used to taking a broader perspective when looking up that they will also do this when selecting a product from a higher shelf."

The study also found subjects more often selected their most preferred brands when looking down.

"Consequently, when all competitive brands appear in low positions, the market share of the market leader (which is often the most preferred brand) is likely to become even larger when all competitive brands appear in low rather than high positions," the report explained.

The findings have ramifications beyond shelf positioning, extending to in-store ads as consumers are likely to process differently ads hanging from the ceiling compared to ones fixed to the floor or at eye level on shelves.

The Consumerist website noted that there were also implications for e-commerce, depending on whether people were looking down at a laptop or smartphone screen when shopping online or straight ahead a desktop monitor.

Data sourced from Journal of Consumer Research, Consumerist; additional content by Warc staff