What Does it Take to Get your Attention? : The influence of In-Store and Out-of-Store Factors on Visual Attention and Decision Making for Fast-moving Consumer Goods

Abstract: Decision making for fast-moving consumer goods involves a choice between numerous similar alternatives. Under such demanding circumstances, a decision is made for one product. The decision is dependent on the interaction between the environment and the mind of the consumer, both of which are filled with information that can influence the outcome. The aim of this dissertation is to explore how the mind and the environment guides attention towards considered and chosen products in consumer decision making at the point-of-purchase.Consumers are equipped with several effort reduction strategies to simplify complex decision making. The selection of strategies can be conscious or automatic and driven by information in the environment or the mind of the decision maker. The selected decision strategy reduces the set of options to one alternative in an iterative process of comparisons that are fast and rely on perceptual cues to quickly exclude irrelevant products. This thesis uses eye-tracking to explore this rapid processing that lacks conscious access or control. The purpose is to explore how product packaging and placement (as in-store factors), and recognition, preferences, and choice task (as out-of-store factors) influence the decision-making process through visual attention.The results of the 10 experiments in the five papers that comprise this thesis shed new light on the role of visual attention in the interaction between the environment and the mind, and its influence on the consumer. It is said that consumers choose with their eyes, which means that unseen is unsold. The results of this thesis show that it is just as important to be comprehended as it is to be seen. In split-second decision making, the ability to recognize and comprehend a product can significantly impact preferences. Comprehension stretches beyond perception as consumers infer value from memory structures that influence attention. Hence, the eye truly sees what the mind is prepared to comprehend.