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Science Reveals Simple Way You’ll Miss Best Holiday Deals

charisma-measuring-11071802 Credit: Dreamstime.com

Want to find a better holiday deal this season? Look left…or even right, for that matter. Just don’t look straight ahead.

New research finds that shoppers most often choose items at the center of store displays regardless of whether it’s the best product or price. What’s even more surprising is that we don’t even know we’re doing it.

It turns out that the shopper’s eye has a very central focus.  

“Consumers are more likely to purchase products placed in the middle of a display — without even being aware of it,” said Onur Bodur, associate professor from Concordia’s John Molson School of Business in Montreal, who has studied the phenomenon.

Using eye-tracking devices, Bodur and his colleagues investigated how location influences choices for a variety of products, including cosmetics and food items. 

They found that consumers would increase their visual focus on the central option in a product display area in the final five seconds of the decision-making process— and that was the point at which they determined which option to choose. 

It turns out that the process is a subconscious one. When asked how they had come to choose which product to buy, consumers did not accurately recall their reasons for their decision. What’s more, they were not aware of any conscious visual focus on one area of the display over another.

What does uncovering these unconscious habits mean for the average shopper? Greater awareness of buying behaviors should lead to more informed choices. Says Bodur, “By using this newfound knowledge that visual attention is naturally drawn to the center of a display, consumers can consciously train themselves to make a more thorough visual scan of what’s on offer.” 

When it comes to holiday shopping, the visual equivalent to thinking outside of the box just might lead to savvier selections. 

Bodur co-authored the study along with marketing researchers at HEC in France and the Aston Business School in England. It appears in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.

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