Behavioural Economics and Eye Tracking


I’ve recently read Dan Airley’s excellent book ‘Predictable Irrationality’ and it got me to thinking about eye tracking.

Much of the book is about the importance relativity plays in making decisions; we don’t make decisions in isolation and we don’t make them based on a perfect model of the World. We often make decisions based on the information that we have available at the time we make them.

One of the examples Dan goes into is from a subscription advert for The Economist. The advert gives three options:

  • subscription US$59.00
  • Print subscription US $125.00
  • Print & web subscription US $125.00

When given this opportunity 84% of readers chose print and web and 16% choose web only.

He then ran the experiment again with only two options:

  • US $59.00
  • Print & web $125.00

The results reversed; 68% chose web only and 32% chose print and web

Dan goes on to talk about the importance of the middle option, even though no one chose it, it helped people figure out what they wanted.

This led me to thinking about how we maybe sub-optimising gondola ends; when we only show promotional items we may be denying the opportunity for the consumer to see the added value the promotion offers when compared to full price items.

I wanted to explore if this was true so I ran an eye tracking experiment with 60 consumers whom I asked to choose an Innocent Smoothie. 30 of the consumers were shown a gondola aisle shelf with only promotional items from the planogram in Figure 1.1.

Fig 1.1 Offer only smoothies

Fig 1.1 Gondola Isle planogram showing only Innocent Smoothies that were on offer.

And 30 consumers saw a section of the chilled isle that contained smoothies on offer next to a non offer smoothie shown in fig 1.2.

Fig 1.2 Offer and non offer smoothies

Fig 1.2 Chilled isle planogram showing Innocent Smoothies on offer and at full price.

The heat map shown below demonstrates the consumers engaged with the promotional offers.

Fig 1.3 Eye Tracked offer only smoothies

Fig 1.3 Eye tracked gondola Isle planogram showing only Innocent Smoothies that were on offer.

Fig 1.4 Eye Tracked offer and non offer smoothies

Fig 1.4 Eye tracked chilled isle planogram showing Innocent Smoothies on offer and at full price. The yellow circle highlights the attention on the full priced smoothie price.

The heatmap shows the consumers engaged with the promotional offer AND with the full price item, not on promotion.

After selecting the smoothie of their choice I asked the consumers if their purchase was good value for money on a 7 point likert scale, 1 being very good value for money and 7 being not very good value for money.

Consumers who saw the promotional item only items gave a mean score of 2.4. Consumers who saw the promotional items next to a full priced premium offer gave 1.7 even though they purchased the same item!

This is similar to another example that Dan mentions in his book; well run restaurants in New York often have a very expensive dish on the menu, its placement is not for it to be sold, but to make the other items on the menu appear to be better value for money.

One of the things that interests me about behavioural economics and eyetracking is that both focus on the decisions people make and offer insight in to how subconscious processes influence their decisions, I hope you do too.

You can see a 20 minute talk on this subject by Dan Airley speaking at the TED network it’s 20 minutes well spent!

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Thanks for reading!

  • Poja Shams

    Interesting experiment and interesting results. Good reading!