LONDON: Rules of thumb and consumer heuristics can be useful, but marketers need to take account of new research methodologies that call into question received wisdom, an industry figure warns.

Dr Tim Holmes, of Tobii Pro, used eye-tracking technology to research the real world of shopping with real shoppers and found that three oft-cited nostrums didn’t really stand up under examination.

At Marketing Week Live, he explained that eye-level is not buy level, that marketers have longer than eight seconds to grab shoppers’ attention, and that rather more than 70% of decisions are made at the fixture. (For more, read WARC’s report: Rethinking received wisdom in shopper marketing.)

His research showed that the eye-level shelf in a supermarket fixture attracted only 16% of purchases. The next one down – “arm level” – scored highest on 27%, with the bottom two shelves coming in at 25% and 23%.

“Eye-level is not the shelf that everybody thinks it is,” Holmes stated. “When you’re moving through an environment you’re tending to look down and that’s a simple navigational tool to make sure you don’t bump into things.”

As for getting attention, people spent an average of 86 seconds in the aisle in the larger supermarkets and 40 seconds on making decisions.

“This is not System 1 territory,” Holmes pointed out, while adding the caveat that the average figure hid huge variances over 44 categories.

Just 27% of shoppers in the research used a shopping list and, among those, most had a “generally planned” list, with a product type listed rather than a particular brand.

Only 28% of shoppers with a list were specific in their intended purchase but, even then, only 1% of final purchases were of particular branded products a shopper had intended to buy.

Marketers can be guilty of falling prey to the same biases they rely on shoppers adhering to when they’re in store, Holmes suggested, and one reason is the use of poor research methodologies that don’t reflect the real world.

“For behavioural insights you must test in context,” he stressed – “add in distractions and cognitive load and make things a little harder for the shopper to complete the task and you get genuine System 1 behaviour from that participant.”

Sourced from WARC