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Comment: Eye Faster CEO Kirk Hendrickson on using heatmaps to improve convenience store journeys

When designing store layouts, brands attempt to control the path shoppers take. Ideally, shoppers follow a convenient path to find the products they seek, and that is lucrative for the retailer by showing off in-store marketing at opportune moments, giving shoppers the most opportunity to see available products.

Portable eye-tracking technologies record the entire in-store experience, from the shopper’s point-of-view. Heat maps are produced as output from eye-tracking, enabling brands and retailers to understand where shoppers focus their attention. Data related to shopping paths is also a byproduct of any study in a retail environment. Each shopper’s pathway is overlaid onto a store map and those paths are translated into a pathway heatmap (as seen below- red areas represent the most divergence in shoppers’ pathways through the store; blue areas represent the least divergent areas throughout the store).

As would be expected, the research shows that most convergence occurs around the checkout area. While it may seem obvious, this would be the best place to attempt to communicate to the most shoppers. But certain messages at checkout can be ineffective, as most shoppers have already selected their purchases and only make impulse purchases at that point. Convenience stores, in particular, can capitalize on this by advertising products available behind the counter that may be new or on special. Also, pathway heatmaps can assist in identifying other areas of the store where shoppers converge, uncovering opportunities to further engage shoppers with in-store messaging at these locations

Studying shopper pathways helps retailers understand areas that are most likely to be missed. Often this is the back corner of the store, furthest from the entrance and checkout. These areas create opportunities to place destination product categories that shoppers specifically seek out. Beer works well as a destination category as it’s commonly associated with convenience stores and any interested shopper would be sure to find it. Categories like candy bars and ice-cream are commonly associated with impulse purchases and, therefore, should be placed in highly visible areas that more shoppers have to pass regardless of their interests.

While store path heatmaps are a simple and effective visual tool to ascertain where shopper paths converge, the output from eye tracking glasses is more about where customers look to identify hot spots for consumer attention. Heat maps allow retailers to understand if customers are actually looking at in-store marketing materials and what brands and products draw their attention and for how long.

Here are a few tips from eye tracking research to help retailers make the most of in-store marketing and product placement in convenience stores:

The design of a convenience store can create an environment where shoppers can quickly find products, make purchases, and checkout with the ease and convenience expected from its name. Utilizing eye tracking technology to identify visual hotspots and shopper path convergences offers new insights on how to best reach customers during their time in the store.  

Kirk Hendrickson is CEO of Eye Faster