Background — A national chain of grocery stores asked Eye Faster to review shopper attention and behavior while approaching, waiting in line, and finishing their shopping trip at the check out. General industry assumptions are that most checkout purchases are impulse driven. Qualitatively, we know shoppers do appreciate having a variety of checkout options (self, express, family), and the ability to speed through checkout. Some appreciate the “reminder” function of the items stocked in the checkout area, and some say they like having magazines to flip through while they wait. Positive checkout area experiences include clean belts and friendly or helpful cashiers. Negative experiences include long wait times, crowded spaces, and poor lighting.

Approach — Shoppers were recruited as they entered the store and offered a gift card to the store as incentive. Using Applied Science Laboratory’s Eye Tracking equipment, shoppers were asked to shop the grocery store and complete their normal or regular shopping trip through checkout.

In analyzing the data, Eye Faster divided the checkout experience into seven parts:

  1. Navigating to Checkout — This is the phase where the shopper has completed shopping and is deciding which checkstand to approach
  2. Waiting to Unload Cart — This is the phase where the shopper has selected a checkout line but is waiting to unload
  3. Unloading Cart — Unloading the cart begins when the shopper starts unloading the cart and ends when all the items have been placed on the belt
  4. Waiting for their Turn — This is the phase between finishing unloading the shopping cart and when the cashier starts to process the shopper’s groceries
  5. Waiting to Start Paying — This is the phase between when the cashier starts scanning the shopper’s groceries and the time they begin a payment activity, usually the pin pad
  6. Paying — Paying begins from the time the shopper begins either using the pin pad or providing the cashier with a form of payment until the payment process is done. It does not include the time waiting for the receipt
  7. Waiting for Completion — Shopper’s part of payment has been made and the shopper is now either waiting for bagging to be complete or waiting for their receipt

Data was analyzed to assess the purchase behavior and attention behavior during these phases.

Outcome — Shoppers spend, on average, just under six minutes at checkout — accounting for 16% of the time during their entire shopping experience. While at checkout, shoppers spend about half that time waiting as opposed to an action like navigating, unloading or paying. One of the most obvious findings is that impulse purchasing occurs regularly during the checkout process, especially during the waiting times. During the study, 11% of shoppers made an impulse purchase at the checkout, and most items were purchased while waiting their turn.


The vast majority of these purchases were items most often found at checkout like candy, gum, snacks or a beverage. Magazines received significant attention (viewed by nearly 75% of shoppers), considerable interaction (8% of shoppers touching or holding), yet all that only lead to one purchase. It should be noted that checkout purchases were less than 1% percent of overall purchases made in the store. We recommended that the grocery store use the bottom three shelves of the endcaps, currently housing magazines, to place product that could translate more easily into an impulse purchase, especially pantry items that most households use regularly, as it may act a reminder that they need the item.

While checking out, 25% shoppers encountered an interruption to their checkout process. Most often, these interruptions occured during the payment stage of checking out with 8% of all respondents encountering some interruption during payment.


About one quarter of these interruptions lead to the customer waiting for over 1 minute for the interruption to be resolved. As there was generally a line at the checkout, these interruptions regularly affected more than one shopper. As part of our recommendation to the grocery store, we recommended that cashiers have scan codes for all items weighing over 15 pounds to minimize the interruption that occurs when a heavy item is purchased. Also, there are a number of interruptions that can be planned for and should have standard protocol in place to resolve like: getting tobacco products for shoppers, providing assistance out of the store when offered, assistance with finding or replacing a product, and price checks.

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