The next time you’re shopping, looking at items neatly stacked on shelves in any aisle of your favorite store – some high, some low, some with promotional signage – take note that where those store employees put those products isn’t random.
There is actually a lot of research and science that goes behind where they place your favorite snacks or any item you pick up from the shelf. That data is then turned into a planogram and that is how stores and brands market their products.
Traditional marketing research has had consumers take surveys about product placement and visuals while shopping in a real store, and since shopping in a VR environment closely reflects how people shop in the real-world, researchers have recently been using VR to reconstruct store shelves – which can yield amazing results.
However, there is a much deeper layer of data-rich information that merchandising strategists have struggled to collect, but thanks to VR with eye-tracking technology, that data is now obtainable.
A great example of this is when it came to strategizing the best placement of Kellogg’s new Pop-Tart Bites on store shelves, the Battle Creek, MI based company turned to VR to come up with a market research merchandising solution that uses eye-tracking technology to give Kellogg’s marketing specialist the ability to literally look through the eyes of the shopper, and observed their gazing habits while choosing items before placing them into their shopping carts.
The program collected data such as how many seconds a consumer looked at an item? Did the consumer look at merchandising signage? What direction did their eyes go when scanning a shelf? Did they look at the competitor’s products?
The technology behind VR eye-tracking used a Qualcomm headset powered by a Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Platform that had shoppers wear a VR headset as they shopped in a virtual environment. Eye-tracking technology made possible through software from InContext Solutions and eye-tracking data analytics capabilities from Cognitive3D, allowed researchers the ability to track eye movement during the virtual shopping experience.
Through the technology of VR and eye-tracking, Kellogg’s was able to get into the head and behind the eyes of shoppers to collect data that they would have missed through traditional market research.
This approach made it much easier to alter variables such as placement, assortment or signage to test configurations and see much those alterations and changes could impact consumer habits.
Kellogg explored multiple scenarios of where the best placement of their Pop-Tart Bites would be on shelves:
- Pop-Tart Bites were placed just below products from another brand on a high shelf at eye level along with signage.
- Shoppers’ eyes were drawn to the sign and Pop-Tart Bites, but placement also drew consumer eyes to competitor’s products just above the Pop-Tart Bites.
- Pop-Tart Bites were placed on a lower shelf with promotional signage and surrounded by other Pop-Tart brand items. Competitor’s products remained at the top shelf.
- Shoppers’ eyes were drawn to sign and nearby Pop-Tart brand products only, with decreased gazing time on competitor’s products located at the top shelf.
The results of Kellogg’s efforts equated to an 18% increase in total brand sales!
Traditionally, eye level placement was considered prime real-estate for products on a shelf. Yet, Kellogg’s was able to prove the opposite through VR and eye-tracking technology – and the increase in sales is the proof.
“XR provides transformative value to the enterprise,” said Patrick Costello, senior director of business development at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., “This proof of concept with Accenture and Kellogg Company demonstrates the benefits of full immersion and eye-tracking and we expect several customers to follow with similar deployments.”
For Kellogg’s and other companies, the impact of VR merchandising solutions has the potential to transform product placement by examining consumer buying behavior in a faster, more affordable way at a larger scale, with more holistic conclusions.
“By combining the power of VR with eye-tracking and analytics capabilities, it allows significant new insights to be captured while consumers shop by monitoring where and how they evaluate all products across an entire shelf or aisle,” said Camera, adding, “Ultimately, this enables product placement decisions to be made that can positively impact total brand sales, versus only single product sales.”