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Mobile eye tracking glasses reveal stages of visual search in the supermarket

Goals and Objectives

SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI) and HIPP, a leading German brand for baby diets, conducted a supermarket study using SMI Eye Tracking Glasses to examine visual search strategies of shoppers in a supermarket. The objective of the study was to assess implicit factors which influence orientation and decision-making in a real-world environment. The final goal was to use the data on visual orientation of parents to decide for the best option to display the new HIPP product category “1 to 3 years”.

Methods Used

The mobile glasses-type eye tracker from SMI was used to record the eye gaze of shoppers looking at a target shelf in order to obtain objective data on visual search: from the first orientation at the shelf until the final buying decision. The study was conducted in 2011 in three supermarkets in Germany, each representing one out of three different shelf layouts. All supermarkets were similar in demographic distribution of consumers, size and product portfolio.

35 participants were asked to buy a dedicated HIPP product of the category “1 to 3 years” for each of three items on a shopping list. Their eye gaze was recorded with the SMI Eye Tracking Glasses. In a posthoc interview they were asked for a subjective evaluation of their shopper experience.

Eye Tracking Measures Used

For analysis, the time to see a product (time to first fixation) and the time to identify the product (time to take the product out of the shelf) was compared for the three product items and the three shelf layouts.

The objective results were correlated with the subjective shopper experience (how easy it was to find the products). Did a better experience (6= best result) correlate with lower search time?

Main outcome

The study shows a correlation between visual search time until seeing a product and identifying it. The time until the first fixation on the target product (“seeing it”) predicts how long it takes parents to verify the decision and take it from the shelf (“identifiying it”) with high significance.

Nevertheless, for some products, e.g. the “drink” in this study, there was a larger gap between seeing the product (time to first fixation) and identifying it (taking it from the shelf). This might suggest necessary improvements in package design to enable shoppers to identify the product more easily.

Based on the comparison data for the three different shelf layouts, one shelf layout outperformed the other two options. Shelf layout 1 generated the lowest visual search time until identifying all three product items (deciding which products to take from the shelf). Consumers also allocated the best subjective rating to this shelf layout.


This study used eye tracking to study visual search strategies at the POS and to reveal implicit factors which influence orientation and decision-making in a real-world environment. Eye tracking data helped to decide for the best way to integrate the new product category into existing shelf layouts and to communicate those recommendations to the retail markets.