Turning Attention into Action

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Turning Attention into Action

Are you just turning heads or are you getting meaningful attention in-store? There is a common misconception that turning the head of a shopper is the same as getting their attention.

Even if this were so (which stretches the definition of the word ‘attention’), the attention received would be based on the limbic system (fight or flight response) and short-term memory only. It’s similar to watching a horror film at the cinema, which causes the audience to physically jump at the same moment. Does that mean we have the attention of the audience, or are we just creating an automatic, involuntary response?

Typically, the physiological change that causes the jump is an immediate response delivered by the hippocampus and limbic system, but after the briefest of moments, the conscious mind makes sense of the situation. The audiences relaxes, goes back to their popcorn and all of their attention is back on the film – the jump forgotten as quickly as it was brought about.

Let us then, apply this knowledge in-store in order to genuinely get the attention of shoppers. To cause a shopper to engage with a product or promotion we must:

  1. Turn their heads
  2. Capture the moment and do something emotional with it

It is this second step that is all too often overlooked. If a shopper comes out of their trance for even the briefest of moments, it is crucial that they are presented with something – anything – that reaches past the basic working process of their short-term working memory. Something that engages them and makes them pick up the product in front of them.

According to ‘Efficiency in Learning’ by author John Sweller, a person’s awareness of (and subsequent recall of specific things) improves if they are taken through a number of sequential steps. Therefore in-store, we must first turn the head of the shopper, then engage them in a secondary action whilst we manage them through to a third step in the process. If this process is diagrammatically presented – their recall of it will be even higher.

Sometimes however, even the best-planned initiatives attract the wrong kind of attention. In the banking environment, placing a large clock in the sightline of customers did little to positively impact on their perception of their queuing time, and placing instructions as to how easy it was to use an ATM on the unit itself only actually communicated the message to the people who were already using it.

The video below shows a couple of examples of a new signage initiative turning heads, but failing to engage and capture the shopper’s attention.

For further insights into how to engage with shoppers, visit my website: www.sbxl.co.uk or read my book ‘Shoppology, The Science of Supermarket Shopping’.

Phillip Adcock

Shopping Behaviour Xplained