By Anne Holland, President
Eyetracking tests are one of my favorite research tools to discover what works in online marketing (and how to fix your mistakes) . In past columns, I've brought you MarketingSherpa's eyetracking research results for search marketing
and email marketing
Today I'd like to bring you up to date on our latest eyetracking lab tests -- ecommerce site tests. This Spring, we tested nine famous online stores sites including Amazon (of course), Dell, Wal-Mart, Apple, Bombay, Circuit City, Best Buy and even eBay.
There were many lessons about the ever present "golden triangle" of attention, importance of image size (larger is not always better), which copy would be read the most (above the fold as you guessed), where people click (not always on clickable hotlinks) and how online shoppers view category pages (more intense scrutiny than you may think.)
We also uncovered a few mysteries, the biggest of which was: Why is Apple.com's copy viewed far intensely (especially below the fold) than anyone else's?
However, perhaps the biggest lesson of all was represented the study we conducted on Wal-Mart's home page. (See the link at the end of this column for a free PDF download that includes a four-color "heatmap" of our Wal-Mart results.)
We asked our lab subjects, 38 experienced online shoppers, to go to Wal-Mart with a budget of $200 they could spend on anything they desired. Our goal was to learn how online shoppers act when they are "browsing".
I suspected that this type of browsing would be similar to recreational shopping offline -- say in your local Mall on a Saturday afternoon or through the pages of a favorite print catalog. The shopper is relaxed, enjoying the experience, wandering around a bit, glancing over many items before making an actual purchase decision.
Turns out I was completely wrong.
When shoppers armed with $200 to spend browsed Wal-Mart's site, guess where their eyes went? No, not to any of the images or tantalizing offers on the home page. These folks didn't look around or "browse" at all!
Instead their eyes immediately fastened on the navigation bar (horizontal slightly overtaking vertical in popularity), they picked out the category they wanted, and CLICK, they were off on a highly directed search. The Search box in the navigation bar was also pretty popular.
Almost none strayed below the fold, and none above the fold paid much attention to merchandising nor did they click on any promotion above the fold.
Lesson learned -- online shopping is not yet a "browsing" activity.
Unlike brick and mortar shoppers who may enter stores especially in malls as an entertainment activity ("Let's go see what they have in here"), online shoppers are much more directed, even when they have no more direction than "spend some money." People don't seem to be looking around much. Online shoppers are *blinkered* by their goals.
In fact, you could say these online shoppers' eyes treated ecommerce sites in a remarkably similar fashion to the way we've seen their eyes treat search engine results.
Store as search tool versus shopping as entertainment: that's a big change especially for apparel and consumer electronics retailers. How should it affect your navigation? Think of it this way -- now that every site (almost) has become a sub-segment of the search experience. That's a big change for many retailers (especially multichannel ones) to consider. Useful links related to this article
Ecommerce Benchmark Guide 2006: Top 5 Highlights Report: