A retail store is a multi-sensory environment filled with messages to tempt customers into making unplanned purchases. The purpose of this field study was to examine the interplay between three factors claimed to precede and influence unplanned purchases: store familiarity, visual attention, and navigational fluency (the subjective ease of navigating). Eye-tracking recordings and post-study questionnaires from 100 grocery store shoppers showed that store familiarity was positively associated with navigational fluency. However, customers’ levels of dynamic gaze behavior (a frequent, widely distributed viewing pattern) moderated this effect. Dynamic gaze behavior significantly predicted navigational fluency among customers with low and moderate store familiarity, but not among customers familiar with the store. These findings challenge the formerly held assumption that store familiarity automatically implies navigational ease, and store unfamiliarity implies navigational difficulty. The results have implications for navigational aspects in stores.

Otterbring, T., Wästlund, R., & Gustafsson, A. (2016). Eye-tracking customers’ visual attention in the wild: Dynamic gaze behavior moderates the effect of store familiarity on navigational fluency. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 28(January), 2397-2400

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