Spotlighting Customers' Visual Attention at the Stock, Shelf and Store Levels with the 3S Model.


Department of Management/MAPP, Aarhus University; Department of Psychology & CTF, Service Research Center, Karlstad University; [Email]


Several models of the in-store search process exist in the fields of retailing, marketing, and consumer-based research. The present article presents a new conceptualization of this search process, which captures customers' visual attention at three distinct levels of analysis: Stock, Shelf, and Store. We refer to this conceptualization as the 3S Model and illustrate its usefulness through three eye-tracking studies, one from each level of analysis. Our experimental examples, which range from manipulating certain stimuli on a single product (e.g., the placement of textual and pictorial packaging elements) to manipulating the entire shopping trip for customers during their stay in a store (e.g., through more or less specific shopping tasks), highlight the broad applicability of this alternative approach for understanding customers' in-store search behavior. Thus, our model can be seen as a helpful tool for researchers interested in how to conduct experimental eye-tracking studies that shed light on the perceptual processes preceding product choices and purchase decisions. The 3S Model is equally suitable in controlled lab conditions and under ecologically valid settings in the real retail environment. Furthermore, it can be used from the micro level, with a focus on the meaningful metrics on a particular product, through the intermediate level, with the emphasis on the area surrounding products in shelves and other in-store spaces, all the way to the macro level, examining customers' navigational paths throughout a store as a function of their shopping tasks, cognitive capacity, or ability to acquire in-store information.

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