Simple or complex? Consumer response to display signs

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Melinda Knuth
Bridget K. Behe
Patricia T. Huddleston


Retail signage provides information from the marketer to facilitate product purchase. An increase in sign information creates greater sign complexity, which raises the question: for consumer product choices, what quantity of information is helpful versus overwhelming? We hypothesize that consumers would allocate more visual attention to complex signs and that sign complexity would be a predictor of likeliness to buy (LTB). Five experts rated 105 real garden center signs for complexity and five low, moderate, and highcomplexity signs were selected for the study. Signs were incorporated into Tobii X1 Light Eye Tracker software, where 85 non-student subjects rated sign attractiveness and LTB from a display containing that sign. Subjects allocated greater visual attention (higher fixation count and longer total fixation duration) to more complex signs, which were also rated as most attractive. Initial regression results showed sign attractiveness and fixation count were positive predictors of LTB, while complexity and total fixation duration were inversely related to LTB. Mediation analysis showed that fixation duration fully mediates fixation count impact on purchase intention. Results suggest that informationrich messaging in high complexity signs, while seen as attractive, may give consumers too much information and higher cognitive load, which makes decision-making more difficult.

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