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The Impact of Consumer Navigation Behaviour on Visual Attention to Online Advertising

An eye tracking study

Written by Teresia Schullström

Paper category

Master Thesis


Business Administration>Marketing & Sales




Thesis: Online advertising—different from the advertising in traditional media. Television and the Internet. Watching programs on TV and surfing the Internet on computers are all activities in which users obtain information or entertainment from digital screens in the form of text, audio, and mobile or static pictures. However, Information/entertainment consumption patterns are actually very different between the two media. Nielsen summarizes the differences by introducing a forward and backward mode. (2008) On the Internet, consumers use their forward-leaning model because they are active, participatory and goal-oriented. On the other hand, when they watch TV, they are in a weight-loss mode because they are more passive, more relaxed and want information or entertainment. (Nielsen, 2008) Due to these differences, advertisers face a completely different situation when placing advertisements on the Internet compared with traditional media such as television. The new situation may contain opportunities and advantages, but unfortunately it also contains challenges and weaknesses. When television is used as an advertising medium, advertisers may interrupt consumer activities. During this interruption, they can use all the bandwidth to broadcast their messages. If they don't actively decide to leave the TV or stay away from the channel, consumers will see the advertising messages. (Drèze & Hussherr, 2003) Since most people are in passive mode when watching TV, they choose to continue watching instead of actively reaching out for the remote control and walking away. Studies have shown that the switching rate during commercial advertising is less than 3%. (Siddarth, 2002; Drèze & Hussherr, 2003) On the other hand, online advertising rarely obtains all the bandwidth for itself, but must compete with other elements on the website for the user's attention. This kind of competition takes place in a chaotic environment where consumers are task-oriented, and advertisements are usually not related to consumers' information search or processing goals. (Benway & Lane, 1998; Bernard, 2001; Kuisma et al., 2010) Therefore, only capturing and retaining consumers' attention is even more challenging for online advertising. However, sharing bandwidth with related information or entertainment can also bring opportunities. Consumers can choose to leave the TV or switch to another channel (even if only a few people do), but these possibilities do not exist when surfing the Internet (unless ad-elimination software is used). Consumers can and are likely to avoid looking directly at advertisements, but they may still attract peripheral attention. (Kuisma et al., 2010) Online advertising is usually located on the periphery of editorial content. Since online advertising is rarely the target of information search on the Internet, consumers may use active navigation behavior (see page 14 from top to bottom) Differences between online advertising Online advertising is not only different from advertising in traditional media. Online advertising is also very different from each other, both in terms of advertising goals, format and design. Below, we will introduce the most common advertising differences and previous findings about how these differences affect attention. Website Type The type of website on which the advertisement is displayed is very important for how (and whether) the advertisement is perceived. Different types of websites come from different intentions of consumers, and certain expectations about how and where information can be found on certain types of websites. Depending on the purpose of the website, they also use different layouts, design elements and structures, which in turn will affect consumers' visual attention. Different forms of online advertising can be found on many types of websites, but in this report, the main focus is on e-commerce advertising. In order to understand the relationship between advertisements on e-commerce websites and advertisements on other types of websites, this section will quickly introduce two common website types that usually contain advertisements: portals/online newspapers and search engine results pages (SERPs). Web portals and online newspapers Web portals and online newspapers are often messy and contain high information density. Information, articles and advertisements are often mixed together without any obvious difference. This creates what Nielsen and Pernice call a "guessing game" for users to decide where to look. Peripheral vision usually helps them avoid everything that looks like an advertisement and instead focus on their current task. (Nielsen & Pernice, 2009) Search Engine Result Page (SERP) Compared with other website types, SERP has a different appearance and function, which also creates unique consumer behavior. This requires other "rules" for online advertising on SERPs, which generally receive more attention than advertising on any other type of website. The reason for this is that consumers are browsing the results looking for solutions or some information, and since advertisements are usually based on search queries, they may actually provide consumers with this information. (Owens, 2011; Nielsen & Pernice, 2009) The format of the advertisement is also the most common text-based sponsored link. These are very similar to actual search results on SERPs, so they won’t be affected by banner blindness. (Nielsen & Pernice, 2009) E-commerce Advertisements on e-commerce websites, like advertisements on SERPs, usually attract more attention than advertisements on portals or online magazines. The reason for this situation is believed to be that users are very sensitive to discounts and offers, and they may want to find these in advertisements on shopping websites. Read Less