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What Does Eye-Tracking Reveal About Impulsive Buying?

By Hayk Khachatryan

This research focuses on the relationship between impulsive buying behavior and product attributes, evaluated with the use of neuromarketing techniques. Specifically, this research examines a consumer’s likelihood to purchase a horticultural transplant based on the signage and characteristics of plants displayed. The Green Industry market is mature, and it is clear that innovation and marketing will drive growth.

This study expands on previous research conducted, which examined the relationship between product-specific characteristics and choice behavior. It expanded on previous work by collecting gaze duration on product signs and tested the relationship between impulsive purchase behavior and the likelihood to purchase.

Eye-tracking technologies were used to evaluate the relationship between likelihood to purchase and impulsive purchase behavior. These technologies allowed us to indirectly assess intention. We hypothesized that impulsive buying behaviors are influenced by eye gaze patterns, which occur at the subconscious level. Finally, it also examines how plant signs are viewed, and which characteristics are most important to consumers. We set out to determine if buying impulsiveness influences intentions to purchase and if the effects of impulsiveness will be impacted by gaze duration. A display was created that contained three types of plants with three blank signs spaced equally throughout. Using Photoshop, text was added to the signs describing the environmentally friendly production methods, price, and plant type. Sixteen scenarios were designed and presented to participants at six North American universities. Verbal, behavioral, and eye-tracking data were collected.


Research showed that there was a moderate and positive relationship between a consumer’s likelihood to buy and eco-friendly production methods, which were preferred over conventional methods. Less impulsive people and women were more likely to buy plants, while education and income were inversely related to the purchase of plants.  

Data revealed that energy saving was the most important indicator of a purchase, and that the time spent looking at prices increased as prices rose. Those with a higher impulse score were not concerned about environmentally friendly features of the plants.  Likelihood to purchase increased along with the number of individuals in a family, but as education and income rose, likelihood to purchase declined. There is a positive relationship between likelihood to purchase and production method. While it was not surprising to find a positive relationship between likelihood to purchase and production method, new insights were gathered in the role of impulsiveness on plant choice and production method. Lower impulse levels are correlated with a greater probability to purchase, while more thoughtful consumers are more likely to purchase plants grown using eco-friendly practices. Gaze duration results suggest that more impulsive consumers may disregard production practices and related product descriptors displayed at the point-of-sale.


Marketers can use the research data to better understand the role of product attributes and consumer characteristics when making purchase decisions. With more than half of the decision making process occurring subconsciously, it is important to understand the role that product attributes play when decisions are made. The research reveals that in order to achieve higher sales growth, businesses need to understand their target clientele and develop labeling strategies that cater to their target audiences. 

This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing Yearbook. Order your copy today