Eye-tracking-based classification of information search behavior using machine learning: Evidence from experiments in physical shops and virtual reality shopping environments

Jella Pfeiffer, Thies Pfeiffer, Martin Meißner, Elisa Weiß

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations

Abstract

Classifying information search behavior helps tailor recommender systems to individual customers' shopping motives. But how can we identify these motives without requiring users to exert too much effort? Our research goal is to demonstrate that eye tracking can be used at the point of sale to do so. We focus on two frequently investigated shopping motives: Goal-directed and exploratory search. To train and test a prediction model, we conducted two eye-tracking experiments in front of supermarket shelves. The first experiment was carried out in immersive virtual reality; the second, in physical reality-in other words, as a field study in a real supermarket. We conducted a virtual reality study, because recently launched virtual shopping environments suggest that there is great interest in using this technology as a retail channel. Our empirical results show that support vector machines allow the correct classification of search motives with 80% accuracy in virtual reality and 85% accuracy in physical reality. Our findings also imply that eye movements allow shopping motives to be identified relatively early in the search process: Our models achieve 70% prediction accuracy after only 15 seconds in virtual reality and 75% in physical reality. Applying an ensemble method increases the prediction accuracy substantially, to about 90%. Consequently, the approach that we propose could be used for the satisfiable classification of consumers in practice. Furthermore, both environments' best predictor variables overlap substantially. This finding provides evidence that in virtual reality, information search behavior might be similar to the one used in physical reality. Finally, we also discuss managerial implications for retailers and companies that are planning to use our technology to personalize a consumer assistance system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)675-691
Number of pages17
JournalInformation Systems Research
Volume31
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Decision support systems
  • Electronic commerce
  • Exploratory search
  • Field experiments
  • Goal-directed search
  • Laboratory experiments
  • Mobile eye tracking
  • Recommender system
  • Virtual reality

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