What Do People REALLY Look at When Shopping Online?

3025318-slide-6etfaceWe make a lot of assumptions about how people shop online, and what catches their eye first. Sure, we know UX best practices, including the general “Z pattern” that people’s eyes follow on a web page. But, many of our assumptions are based on outdated eyetracking and heat map studies. Now, there’s a new eyetracking study out that gives us a lot of juicy, interesting data about how shoppers actually look at on ecommerce sites.

EyeQuant, a German artificial intelligence company offering predictive eye-tracking for websites, conducted the study in order to determine what people will look at when a website loads. The study included 46-people and was conducted inside the neuroscience lab at the University of Osnabrueckin Germany in order to help EyeQuant improve its internal algorithms. The participants looked at a total of 200 product and landing pages with the intent to purchase items such as Levi’s jeans, a TV from Target, or a weekend trip to Paris. The study resulted in heat maps that show how people view web pages when looking to buy. Below are the takeaways from the study, courtesy of Fast Co.Design.

Faces Aren’t That Powerful
For a long time, conventional wisdom was that people looking at web pages focused on the faces of the people in the images. The EyeQuant study found that, even though people love to look at human faces, they’re much more likely to focus on the header text or a search bar than they are on a human face.


Big Text Is Easy to Read
Sounds pretty obvious. But, what’s important is that people don’t focus on the big text for long because they’re able to read and absorb it so quickly. People tended to focus on the smaller subheaders for longer than they did on the large headers.

Free is The Magic Word
Again, pretty obvious. We all want free stuff. But, people don’t actually look at the word “free” as much as we might assume. On websites that advertised a free product or free shipping, people were more likely to look at product descriptions, or in one (funny) case, Victoria Secret’s model’s breasts. Nice.

People Don’t Care About Your Branding
Users that already knew what they wanted to buy didn’t look at the branding elements of the page hardly at all, including the company logo. “Users ignore a lot of the branding on these pages,” said EyeQuant’s CEO Fabian Stelzer. “They really want to find the elements that get their job done.” So, they know what they want and they’re going to make a beeline for it. The branding isn’t necessarily important to them. This may not be the case, however, with people that aren’t sure what they want to buy.


Of course, 46 people isn’t a very large number of participants, so it’s hard to draw overarching conclusions from the study. But, other eyetracking studies mostly focused on how people look at websites when they’re trying to find information. So this new study gives us some valuable insight into consumer online shopping behavior. But, as Stelzer says, “Data shows us the common sense, rules of thumb about how things work… and should be taken with a grain of salt.”

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