List or Lost?: Shopping Lists and Navigation

Eye Tracking
Shopping List
Brain on Screen

Whether it’s on our phones, in a notebook or just on the back of an old receipt, most of us write a list before a big supermarket shop. Yet, despite being a core feature of the consumer decision-making process, researchers are still uncertain about how these lists change the way we shop.

To answer this question, the Laboratory of Consumer Psychology used eye-tracking glasses and mobile cameras to investigate how customers move around a store. The results showed a number of surprising findings.

Firstly, customers didn’t travel around the shop in the way that the retailer expected. Store managers predicted that shoppers would walk up and down every aisle, to pick up each item they wanted. However, our research showed most customers walk around the perimeter or centre path in a store, making short trips down aisles to grab what they need, before returning back to the outsides.This behaviour pattern occurs for all shoppers, regardless of whether they have made a list, or not.

Interestingly, the consumers who used shopping lists spent significantly longer in store, and took a less efficient route around the shop. Futher research conducted by the Laboratory of Consumer Psychology suggests a difference in personality traits might explain why some customers use lists, whilst others don’t. Based on this finding we are currently working with a major retailer to see how they can provide targeted recommendations and improve the customer shopping experience, using a sophisticated analysis of loyalty card data.