Online product displays can shape your buying behavior

One of the biggest marketing trends in the online shopping industry is personalization through curated product recommendations; however, it can change whether people buy a product they had been considering, according to new research. The study by Uma R. Karmarkar, assistant professor at the UC San Diego Rady School of Management and School of Global Policy and Strategy, finds that display items that come from the same category as the target product, such as a board game matched with other board games, enhance the chances of a target product’s purchase. In contrast, consumers are less likely to buy the target product if it is mismatched with products from different categories, for example, a board game displayed with kitchen knives.

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The study utilized eye-tracking — a sensor technology that makes it possible to know where a person is looking — to examine how different types of displays influenced visual attention. Participants in the study looked at their target product for the same amount of time when it was paired with similar items or with items from different categories; however, shoppers spent more time looking at the mismatched products, even though they were only supposed to be there “for display.”

Karmarkar talked with industry experts about product recommendations systems, which shaped her approach to these questions. Recommender algorithms can have different designs to meet a variety of retailers’ respective goals. Products can be shown with “mismatched” displays when retailers are using cross-promoting tactics based on prior customer behavior or inventory they may want to sell more rapidly.

“This shows how outside forces shape our decisions in ways we might not recognize,” she said. “If a shopper is looking for something specific, they are likely to focus their attention, regardless of recommender displays. But when people are just ‘browsing stuff online,’ different page designs can create different patterns of attention. Store displays can change what we choose, even when they don’t change what we like.”

Source (University of California – San Diego. “Online product displays can shape your buying behavior.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 August 2021.)

Paper: Karmarkar, U.R., Carroll, A.L., Burke, M. and Hijikata, S., 2021. Category Congruence of Display-Only Products Influences Attention and Purchase Decisions. Frontiers in neuroscience, p.1060.