Eye Tracking UX Research for
E-Commerce Optimization

A look at how CPG companies can apply Eye Tracking UX Research for E-Commerce Optimization to enhance product presentation and the overall shopper experience with the goal of increasing conversion and, ultimately e-commerce ROI.

In This Article

> Overview

> E-Commerce User Experience Optimization Research Definition

> Who Uses E-Commerce UX Research

> Why Invest in E-Commerce UX Research?

> E-Commerce Optimization Techniques

> Mistakes to Avoid in E-Commerce Optimization Research

> Getting the Most from E-Commerce Optimization Research

> How to Present Eye Tracking UX Research Results

> Summary


E-commerce represents a significant source of future growth for CPG companies.

To this end, industry leaders are expanding their digital presence and building in-house expertise.

Demand is being driven by consumers’ increasing desire for convenience and time saving and by evolving demographics as e-commerce savvy Millennials and Gen Z take on grocery shopping activities.

The CPG industry is in its infancy compared to well-established on-line categories, such as books, apparel or electronics, and grocery companies are learning and evolving as they strive to effectively expand into on-line shopping. Advanced eye tracking UX (User eXperience) research techniques can provide needed insight to optimize all aspects of the e-shopper’s experience, including product presentation, to increase conversion rates and drive growth.

E-Commerce User Experience Optimization Research Definition

E-Commerce user experience (UX) optimization is a multi-faceted exercise and it can be difficult to know where to begin. Whether you are launching a new site, refining an existing site or transitioning your brand to the on-line environment, deciding where to focus optimization efforts and how to gain needed insight can be challenging. In the end, the goal is to increase shopper conversion and the best way to accomplish this is to take a Shopper centric approach.

  • Overall Shopper Experience The goals here are to identify any barriers to conversion and ways to improve or remove them. These can include layout, visual design, content or functionality. What are the pain points preventing shoppers from making a purchase? Are there sources of frustration at a particular stage of the process? Are shoppers having difficulty navigating your site or are particular elements under-utilized or missed all together?  These are some of the question e-commerce shopper insights can address.
  • Overall Product Experience The goal here is to ensure your product presentation is optimized to suit this new buying environment. This can be either visual or content related. Do your packaging and product visuals have stopping power? Is your brand easy to find and readily recognizable? Is product information engaging and easy to understand? Is your product presentation effective across desk top, tablet and mobile devices? These are all critical questions for established brands and innovations alike.

Advanced research techniques can provide deep insight and key metrics to optimize each of these areas to assist with your e-commerce decisions.

Who Uses E-Commerce UX Research?

CPG Retailers and Manufacturers are both striving to create a positive on-line shopper experience and increase conversion rates. They know e-shoppers want to quickly get in and out of the “e-store” with the brands they want at a price they are willing to pay and with a positive experience, including smooth delivery or pick-up process.

They also recognize that the existing user interface is not necessarily best suited for the grocery industry and that existing packaging does not translate well into an on-line environment.

Leading CPG Retailers and Manufacturers recognize the opportunities and the challenges for the grocery industry to succeed on line. This is why they are relying on e-Commerce User Experience Research to effectively adapt their in-store executions to this new shopping reality.

Why Invest In E-Commerce UX Research?

CPG Manufacturers and Retailers who successfully make the transition from bricks and mortar to an e-commerce environment will be the winners in this evolving and growing environment.

Industry leaders understand the need to create an engaging and easy e-commerce experience for shoppers. They realize that one of their biggest challenges is how to best present the product in this environment. And, they know the critical role packaging plays.

Simply adopting traditional in-store solutions for this new environment is unlikely to result in a successful outcome. Without the benefit of multiple facings, physical packaging, product interaction or traditional in-store promotional activities, different solutions are needed to motivate and secure purchase.

A few questions can help you decide if e-Commerce Optimization Research is worth the investment or, if not doing it is worth the risk of lost leadership and lost sales in the e-commerce environment.

First, are you confident that you understand the e-shopper process, experience and potential challenges of this environment? 

The following briefly describes commonly understood on-line shopping stages and shows how each must be optimized for success.

  1. Search and De-Selection. On the home or landing page, shoppers rely on the package to quickly identify and narrow down their choices from a myriad of options. It is critical that packaging clearly communicates your brand and varieties at this first stage in an environment where packaging is portrayed as a thumbnail visual.
  2. Product Comparison and Selection. On the product page, shoppers are reviewing and comparing relevant benefits, claims and other important product details. They know where to quickly find this information on packages in store but, you are likely unable to replicate this on line. Therefore, a different approach to effectively provide relevant information is needed.
  3. Confirmation and Fulfillment. At the check-out page, shoppers confirm and complete their purchase. It must be a clear and easy process or you risk losing the sale at this critical stage. You also risk having a dissatisfied shopper on delivery as even seemingly simple tasks, like ensuring correct selection of format or size, can be difficult when shoppers can’t physically interact with the product.

Secondly, be sure you fully understand the role of packaging online and how to best optimize it for success. 

The realities of the e-commerce environment are such that your current packaging will likely not translate well into on-line shopping. Ask yourself:

    • Can shoppers can find and readily recognize your brand?
    • Can shoppers easily see and understand your product features and benefits?
    • Will my execution be successful amongst the growing mobile shopper segment?

Thirdly, consider some of the realities of online shopping and resulting challenges:

  • The web based experience levels the playing field. Without the benefit of shelf context, smaller competitors can get just as much attention as bigger brands. This prevents larger brands from dominating categories putting niche products or smaller brands on equal footing.
  • “Thumbprint” Visuals – Packaging is significantly downsized for online. The small size of the package thumbnails make the brand name, product features and comparisons difficult to see or read. If shoppers can’t quickly find your brand or easily understand the benefits, you risk losing the sale to competition.
  • How much information is too much? The online environment provides unique opportunities to engage shoppers with images and educate with relevant product benefits and features. However, you must strike the right balance as shoppers are unwilling to invest significant time in the grocery shopping task.
  • Consumers Reviews are a reality. This can be an opportunity or a threat. You must ensure clear communication and accuracy of brand information throughout the experience including physical delivery and usage of the product or risk negative reviews
  • Introducing new Products, encouraging brand shifting and impulse purchases can be challenging. There is no or little opportunity for new brands, competing brands or impulse categories to attract attention or entice shoppers. Packaging must work even harder to gain attention and encourage shoppers to explore your brand or make impulse purchases to increase basket size.
  • Finally, mobile devices create unique challenges.  First, planograms are vertical versus horizontal. This means there is even less time to capture shopper’s attention and makes product comparisons more difficult. There is a limit to how far shoppers will scroll. Less than half of shoppers will scroll down more than 7 mobile screens before going to do something else. Thus, simplicity is even more key for this format.The above questions and realities do not cover every consideration when selling online. However, addressing these through well thought out and actionable research will further your learning and significantly increase your likelihood of success.

    E-Commerce Optimization
    Research Techniques

    Grocery retailers and manufacturers are exploring and experimenting with various online shopping interfaces, formats and product presentations as they strive for a competitive advantage in the e-commerce environment. They are relying on insight and companies who are thought leaders in the industry and who are investing in technology and expertise in e-commerce testing approaches to help address their needs.
    The following is a brief explanation of the various techniques commonly used.

    Central Location Simulated e-Commerce Test: In this simulated test environment, respondents interact with the site just as they would on a live site. It is equally effective for testing across desk top, tablet and mobile devices. Respondents are recruited to a central location and assigned to a matched control cell (current or competitive) or a test cell(s). They complete an on-line shopping task wearing Eye Tracking glasses which tracks viewing patterns to accurately show exactly when and where shoppers look, pause and for how long. Testing can also include a facial coding technique to accurately measure emotional reactions in real time. The shopping exercise is followed up with a quantitative on-line survey or, at times, in-depth one-on-one qualitative interviews for added insight. This approach provides the benefits of security and consistency of a controlled lab environment. It also allows for rapid prototyping of test elements whether it’s layout of pages, packaging design or communication for quick turn-around time of results.

    On-Line Simulated e-Commerce Test: This test also offers a simulated test environment and is applicable for testing on desk top, tablet or mobile devices. It differs from the central location lab approach in that respondents are recruited from on-line panels and complete the shopping task at home using their own device. They are directed to the shopping interface – either the control or the test version – and given instructions on task to be completed.  Following the shopping exercise an online survey is administered for further input.  Their online behavior is recorded and analyzed based on click throughs, although some companies have the ability to apply eye tracking via webcam. If not, this important component of the test may be completed as a separate “add-on” study in a central location. This approach offers the benefit of easily testing across geographies and demographics.

    A/B Testing or Split Testing: This is a live in market test set up as a split cell whereby half the users see one version of the site and the other half are diverted to another version. Behavior is measured via click through’s to understand what shoppers are doing. While this approach has the benefit of real world live testing and large samples, it may not offer the speed desired as one or two business cycles are needed.

    e-Commerce Analytics: This testing approach is also conducted in a live site environment and analyzes data collected from actual behavior. It provides an effective means of learning about shoppers including demographics, interests, what they are doing online or how they search for categories or brands based on click through’s. It has the advantage of being a live site with shoppers in their actual shopping mode. The downside is that as it’s a live test and learn environment, it can take time to evolve your site. It can, however, be a useful tracking tool to assess any changes you may make based on this or other e-commerce test techniques.

    Qualitative Research:  As with all types of research, small sample size qualitative studies can be useful at various stages of the process. It can provide valuable insight at early stages for prototype development, saving time and money, before moving to a full-scale test. Or, as mentioned earlier, it can be added to a quantitative study for further understanding.

    Your business goals and research objectives will ultimately guide which technique and tools are right for your e-commerce optimization needs.

    Mistakes to Avoid In E-Commerce Optimization Research

    The following covers some of the key oversights to be aware of when conducting E-Commerce Optimization Research. Methodology mistakes common to all research are not covered, but clearly are equally important.

    Ensure solutions are effective for desktop, tablet and mobile devices. The overall experience will vary by device and you must ensure that your solution is effective across each of them. Mobile presents a particular challenge and predictions suggest it represents the greatest growth so, it’s worthy of particular attention.

    Don’t simply test your current in-store packaging in an on-line environment. Current packaging will not represent your best product presentation for e-commerce. Experiment with various visuals and presentations based on learning to date and general principles. Importantly, high quality images should be the testing standard as they are required in the actual execution.

    Don’t assume one size fits all. Some categories may require deeper levels of product information while others, such as impulse purchase categories, may require very little. An approach for one category may not be optimal for another.

    Ensure e-Commerce test options have clear differences. Options must be different enough for shoppers to experience a real change. Minor changes may not be discernible and will result in similar results, thus wasted time and money.

    Use theory as guidelines only.There are many commonly held beliefs through testing regarding on e-commerce packaging solutions or product placement. These can be extremely helpful as guidelines for developing test options. However, don’t rely solely on these to create your final package or online experience without actual testing.

    Getting the Most from E-Commerce Optimization Research

    Certain “musts” to getting the most out of any marketing research start with having clear, aligned objectives through to correct interpretation and compelling presentation of results. The following emphasizes how to get the most out of e-commerce optimization research.

    Eye Tracking is an essential tool for e-commerce optimization. Eye Tracking shows the exact scanning pattern of each page — how content is viewed, in what order, whether your brand is noticed and how much time is spent. It provides highly actionable insights and is an affordable and insightful way to gain deep understanding of behavior. Without Eye Tracking, your insights and actions will fall short.

    Facial coding provides deep insight into shopper emotions and feelings as they navigate e-sites. It helps understand if and when shoppers are frustrated based on actual versus reported reactions. It identifies exactly when and where a problem area occurs and potential issues that may not surface with traditional surveys.

    Test your product presentations on desktop, tablet and mobile. As mentioned previously, the shopping experience will differ by device used and you need to ensure your product presentation is optimized for all.

    Include a control as a benchmark for performance. The selected technique must include a point of reference to effectively measure an increase in sales and assess the value of implementation. Clearly, various market factors will effect actual sales results once implemented however, it is critical for deciding whether or not to adopt a tested option.

    How to Present Eye Tracking UX Research Results

    First, let your business goals and research objectives be your guide. The best market research presentations focus on what is most important to their client and audience, not every “fascinating” piece of data.

    Always start with the business goal and research objective followed by a review of the tested options and how the research was done. Be sure to spend more time explaining the technique if the audience is less familiar with it. This will save time and possible confusion in the end.

    Provide recommendations and supporting rationale. Focus on the conversion rate and how to optimize specific elements to achieve increased conversion. After this, you can dive deeper into each of the key learnings and insights.

    Use visuals to bring results to life. Visual impressions are everything and the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” should be taken to heart in presenting e-commerce optimization research findings. Eye Tracking Heat Maps and Scrolling Maps are a highly effective way to convey high/low viewing areas, scrolling patterns and how much time is spent in each area. These will speak for themselves and clearly show what shoppers are doing and what they’re not doing!

    At the end of your presentation, you will have provided the confidence that your e-Commerce site and product presentation have been optimized to achieve increased business results.


    E-Commerce is becoming a vital component of CPG’s growth plan and optimizing sales in this environment is paramount to future growth. This is why leaders in CPG are seeking solutions and asking questions about E-Commerce Optimization. They realize that to succeed in this environment, they must optimize their on-line presence and executions. They are turning to research experts whose advanced research techniques and business experience can provide deep insights and reliable, actionable results to create a competitive e-commerce advantage. They know that leading, innovative research companies apply the latest in technology, have the expertise and the experience to get the best return on their research investment. And, importantly, they know they will always keep business needs and goals front and center.

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