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    Navigation apps help shoppers find products

    Make grocery shopping easier and more inspiring


    In recent years, Signify has been using its lighting technology in combination with software for indoor positioning, mapping, and routing to assist grocery retailers in adding in-store navigation features to their mobile apps. We’ve noticed that the usage of our navigation features peak just a few days before Christmas. Interestingly, we’ve also observed that product-finding solutions are not only popular in grocery stores but also “sticky”: shoppers who start using them tend to continue using them.


    To better understand why in-store navigation is so appealing, we’ve combined feedback from shoppers with insights from the science of visual search. Here's what we've learned.

    Shoppers seek products and inspiration in-store


    Initially, we assumed that in-store navigation assistance would primarily attract shoppers who are short on time and hoping to complete their shopping quickly. However, the feedback we received indicate that also shoppers who take their time to browse, seek inspiration, and make dinner plans while in-store also appreciate the product-finding help offered by in-store navigation.


    When asked why, shoppers explained that the act of searching for a product negatively impacts their shopping experience—it doesn’t contribute to inspiration or discovery and is simply seen as a waste of time. Shoppers come to stores to get new ideas and to select, pick up, and pay for the products they want to buy, not to spend time searching for them. In research that we commissioned five years ago, GC Research found that 57% of shoppers were frustrated with the time it takes to search for products.


    No matter how familiar shoppers are with their grocery store, every now and then they will have trouble locating items on their shopping list. This is where the product-finding feature in a mobile app comes in handy. By selecting the product in the app and requesting directions, shoppers can easily find the product they’re looking for. It’s like Google Maps for groceries.

    Visual search, distractors, and confirmation bias


    Insights from visual search science help us better understand why finding a product can be challenging, even when shoppers have a general idea of where it's supposed to be. These insights also clarify how in-store navigation can help.


    Grocery shopping largely involves visual search tasks. Shoppers search for a specific target (a product on a shopping list) among numerous distractions (all the other products in the store). Visual search science shows that as the number of distractors increases, finding the target becomes more difficult and time-consuming. This explains why grocery stores, with tens of thousands of different products, can be challenging places to locate specific items.


    Surprisingly, we see grocery shoppers spending a considerable amount of time searching, both when they’re in the right place and when they’re in the wrong place. This aligns with findings from visual search science, which indicate that when the target is not present, people spend more time checking and rechecking to ensure that the target is truly not there.


    But even when shoppers are in the right aisle and in front of the correct shelf, they sometimes fail to locate the product due to the large number of distractors. Their search may not be effective because they still have doubts about whether they’re in the right place. In-store navigation help in such situations. Once shoppers receive guidance on where to find a product, confirmation bias sets in, and they subconsciously prioritize information that aligns with the guidance. Shoppers become more attuned to signs, displays, and product placements in the suggested location. This selective attention helps confirm the initial belief about the product’s location. It’s as if the brain is saying, "I’ve been told that the product is here, so I'll focus on finding it here.” This mental filter reduces distractions and increases the likelihood of quickly spotting the desired item.

    Implementing product-finding features in in-store apps


    Finding products in grocery stores is intrinsically difficult. Shoppers love stores for their inspiration and convenience, but none of them loves the act of searching for a product that they’ve already decided to purchase. In-store navigation aids can be tremendously helpful for shoppers who have difficulty dealing with large numbers of distractors.


    To learn more about how Signify can you implement a product-finding feature in your in-store mobile app or scanner app in a scalable and cost-effective way, please learn more about our lighting-based indoor navigation capabilities.

    About the author

    Gerben van der Lugt, Signify

    Gerben van der Lugt is Global Lead, Indoor Location
    Services at Signify.



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