Visual marketing is the strategic utilization of commercial and non-commercial visual signs and symbols by firms in order to deliver useful and desirable messages and experiences to consumers. One of its important components is the effective design of visual communication elements. From the perspective of sensory marketing, the visual layout of marketing information and the resulting visual experiences are critical factors influencing consumers’ perceptions, judgments and even purchasing behaviors in visual marketing. However, the problem faced by all firms is how to learn, evaluate and even improve the effects of visual marketing in their business practices. The eye-tracking technique from the field of cognitive psychology is helpful to solve the problem since it can record natural eye movement behaviors. Nowadays eye-tracking studies in visual marketing have achieved a lot. However, there is no systematic and clear review on which key research questions have been answered and what insightful findings have been obtained in visual marketing via the eye-tracking technique. Thus, beginning with a theoretical introduction to eye movement and visual attention, we summarize key research findings in recent literature in this paper, and then discuss meaningful directions for future work. Theoretical background illuminates two key points. First, eye movements （e.g., saccade, fixation） are good indicators of visual attention because of the physiological structures of eyes. Specifically, eye movements are needed for locating the imaged visual stimuli at the most sensitive part of the retina if people want to visually process certain stimuli accurately and clearly. Second, since human beings’ attentional mechanism is selective, not all visual information from the stimuli can capture people’s attention. According to previous studies, the factors influencing attention capture can generally fall into two categories, which are the bottom-up factors closely related with the salience of stimuli and the top-down factors concerning the viewer’s features. Due to the close relationship between eye movements and visual attention, the eye-tracking technique has an advantage in measuring visual marketing effects. Thus, it has been widely used in recent visual marketing studies, among which the topics of non-print ads design, food product packaging, webpage design, product/service design and shelf management have attracted most academic attention. However, these subfields have different research priorities. Specifically, the eye-tracking technique is widely used to analyze the following questions: （1） how consumers visually avoid TV commercials and web banners and how they visually process brand information embedded in product placement; （2） how the visual design of nutrition labels and the match between mage and text in food product packaging influence consumers’ attention and their subsequent judgments; （3） how the visual design of webpages influences their usability; （4） how product appearance and service environment influence consumers’ visual experiences; （5） how the product position, environment virtuality and combined effects of shelf features and consumers’ preference influence their attention. Although previous studies have provided insightful findings, there are still many important questions left to be answered. We propose three specific research directions for future studies. First, the scope of research objects can be widely broadened into other promising areas besides print advertisements. This is particularly true for domestic researchers. Second, more advanced statistical methods and/or experimental techniques can be utilized to overcome long-existing difficulties such as the unclear relationship between visual attention and the cognitive processing of visual marketing information, the standardization of visual attention indicators in evaluating the effects of visual marketing, and the downstream effects of visual attention （e.g., sales volume）. Third, the established paradigms or techniques from other fields can be adopted/adapted into visual marketing studies.
Eye-Tracking Studies in Visual Marketing: Review and Prospects
Foreign Economics & Management Vol. 40, Issue 12, pp. 98 - 108,124 (2018) DOI:10.16538/j.cnki.fem.2018.12.007
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Cite this article
Yu Hang, Xie Yi, Chen Xianglan. Eye-Tracking Studies in Visual Marketing: Review and Prospects[J]. Foreign Economics & Management, 2018, 40(12): 98-108.