Eye tracking is just one of many new passive, observational research tools. My firm, StrategyOne, has experimented quite a bit with this technology and uncovered exceptionally useful insights for clients working to improve their advertising effectiveness.
I am very bullish on this technology, but we have a long way to go until we have a fully developed analytical framework for the data.
With this in mind, I found the following research summary courtesy of Tobii’s eyeQ.
As you can see below, eye tracking research found that restaurant patrons were more likely to look at the middle of the menu first, as opposed to the upper left hand corner. This suggests that restaurants should place their most appealing, high margin items in the center of the menu.
This also has clear implications for menus with alcoholic beverages. Consider the wine list, for example. This research suggests that it may be more advantageous to put the higher margin wines in the center of the list.
Coming from another perspective, health advocates might read this and urge a mandated “healthy choices” box in the middle of menus. Given society’s complementary learnings in behavioral economics and an interest in “nudging” people toward theoretically better choices, eye tracking might open a can of worms no one previously considered.
An Experiment on Psychological Gaze Motion: A Re-Examination of Item Selection Behavior of Restaurant Customers
Journal of Global Business & Technology (06/10) Vol. 6, No. 1, P. 68; Choi, Jeong-Gil; Woo, Byung-Woo; Mok, Jin-won
A recent study examined psychological gaze motion by restaurant customers as they made their menu selections. The goal was to determine whether a customer’s selection of a menu item was correlated to the item’s position on the menu or by chance. The study found that the middle part is the first spot of eye contact for all three types of menu panels studied. The findings also describe a rift between customers and menu suppliers with regard to menu choice. Though menu suppliers thought that on the first glance customers would gaze at the upper left part of a menu, the research found that customers are more inclined to focus on the center, leading them to choose items from that location. The results show that for single-panel menus, most customers tend to focus on the middle section of the page, not the upper part as documented in previous studies. The gaze sequence continues to the upper part and then the bottom section. For the double-panel menu, the initial gaze again came to the middle section. When presented with the triple-fold menu, customers first went to the middle section, followed by the upper part of the left page and ending at the lower part of the right page. The study also looked at the question of whether the tendencies of customer gaze movement lead to the choice of an item. At least one-third of those surveyed said that they tend to order items from the spot that caught their attention first. These findings suggest that a substantial number of customers are likely to choose an item that their eyes are instantly drawn to. The results indicate that placing the most strategic items on any section of the menu other than the middle would not be as effective in attracting the customer’s attention.