Visual Stimuli and Product Selection
Web-based retailers in operation today must find new and unique ways to make products stand out to potential customers as those prospective buyers sift through ever-greater amounts of information. And it may be as simple as tweaking the contrast and brightness on product images – at least when there is an abbreviated amount of time.
A recent Caltech/Eyequant study has found that consumers are actually more likely to choose a product with the most visual impact over their actual personal preference when distracted or in a rush, and when confronted with a similar range of choices. That’s a rather important insight for digital retailers to consider and one with some serious implications (and challenges).
Study participants were asked to choose from images of snack foods that they had previously categorized in terms of personal preference. Respondents were then asked to choose again under varying time frames and cognitive-load conditions. The study found that by adjusting the brightness and contrast of certain items, participants frequently chose the snack that visually stood out to them over their initial preference (this was especially the case if the participant was multi-tasking, in a rush to make a decision, or obliged to choose from a similar range of products.)
What the study suggests is that if “the visual salience of a product can override consumer preferences, particularly in a time-sensitive and distracting context such as online shopping, then strategic alterations to a website’s visual impact can dramatically shift a customer’s attention in a crowded product market.”