How supermarkets use psychology to trick you into spending more money

Monday, September 21, 2020

How supermarkets manipulate you into buying more food in store

How supermarkets manipulate you into buying more food 

While an old school economist from Chicago may tell you that's upermarket customers are 'rational actors' who make decisions based on price efficiency, supermarkets - with their behavioral analysis knowledge - have their customers so well figured out, they know what they will do before they even enter the store. 

And while you may think you are shopping on price alone, it is not that simple when you are walking into a real time shop experiment and you are the little mouse looking for some cheap cheese. 

The psychological tricks that supermarkets employ on customers are quite simple but they come with a science pedigree - just like Walmart knows your sixteen-year-old daughter is likley to be pregnant, they know what day you like to shop and what specials you like to buy.

The classic trap is to advertise cheese so cheap that you come into the store because you cannot resist the price in the hope you''ll buy some extra items and then check out with your...

Ever heard of a loyalty card?


The data collected about your shopping behaviours can now dissect your buying habits into ones and zeros. 

Is that loyalty card connected to other businesses? The supermarket now knows that you like to fill up the car with petrol on the way home for example. So, hence they sell you receipts that come with fuel discounts.

Once they have you in-store, that's when the sneaky supermarkets launch their playbook of tricks and psychological ploys to get you to spend longer in store to spend more cash.

Which can be really tough when you are trying to save money on the food bill!

Supermarkets are living laboratories that study human buying behavior.

Have you ever noticed all those cameras in the modern shopping complex and asked yourself, why so many security cameras?

They are not just for catching cheeky shoplifters (a money-saving measure we do not recommend you try!) - the majority of them placed down the aisle are there to monitor and observe consumer traffic patterns. No doubt they will also be monitoring your physical appearance too. 

What body shapes are customers?

What sex? 

Do different sexes and body shapes behave differently?

When and why? 

Where do they look first?

You can bet they are using this data to figure out how to sell more to you.

This is because supermarkets that understand how their customers think and make purchasing decisions are able to plan the shopfloor layout more efficiently.

The classic example of this is supermarkets know that people will often tend to enter the store with a set mental list of what they want and it's usually the basics like bread and milk.

And that's exactly why eggs, dairy & milk, and bread are often positioned farthest from the store's entrance as possible so you walk all the way past other attractive food items. 

Indeed, eggs are often situated in random or seemingly 'unnatural' places to encourage first-timers to the store to walk around looking for them!

Lean mean green vegetables


why fruit is at the front of supermarket entrances

Vegetables and fruit are placed at the entrance deliberately  - this because it's well proven that consumers are vastly more inclined to pick more items at the start of their shopping experience. 

Your brain's wiring also comes into play here. You are buying 'healthy food' so you feel good about yourself. Maybe you will add an extra 5 carrots to your bag, 

At the same time, your brain is being brutally bombarded with a range of vibrant colors and wonderful smells.

The bakery is usually right next to the vegetable section because the bread smells nice. 

Fruit displays are often backed against well-cleaned mirrors to add volume and light vibrancy to the fruit. 

The supermarket is appealing to your brain with these signals saying, yo dude, this is a great place to shop!

Note when we say bakery, this does not include standard loaves of bread for making sandwiches with, other than speciality items. 

No, your standard sliced loaf of bread will be far away from the vegetables. You want toast bread? Sure but you gotta walk to the other side of the store. 

Maybe along the way, you'll discover and pick up a few well-placed items at the end of the aisle... Maybe a copy of Dune?

The supermarkets are hoping that you will feel a little bit smug about all the healthy food that you put in your shopping trolley that'll you'll consider that enough of a reason to buy some biscuits or other junk type food.

So how does this affect you, the keen dollar saver? 

The eyes have it


Forget the shop layout, you're already a modest mouse caught in that well-planned wheel, look at the shelf layout (whilst staying true to your shopping list of course).

Your eyes will naturally gravitate to the product that's been placed in your eye line / at face level.

This is where the most expensive goods and groceries are positioned. Because your eagle eyes will often become psychologically attached to the first item that you find when you are looking for a particular item.

Would it also surprise you to discover that many brands hand over cash to the supermarket for the right to having their goods placed directly in the customer's line of vision.

This practice is known in the business as paying a 'slotting fee'.

Supermarkets will also put kid-friendly things at the kid's eye level.

That's some real street-level cunning right there.

The implication of this of course if you are looking for cheaper items, look on on the bottom shelf for them. 

Impulse power, Mr Sulu


Another classic trick played on shoppers is to put goods that could be bought as 'impulse purchases' by the checkout lanes.

Lollies, magazines, those small hand-sized deodorant sprays, magazines, chocolate, and the classic packet of 'chewing gum' - these impulse items are placed there so you will add a couple of extra dollars to your shopping total. 

Now if even one in ten or twenty customers does this, those sales will add up for the Supermarket Owners over time.

To be fair some product placements will benefit the customer, such as peanut butter next to the jelly. and beer next to crisps and chips, baking yeast next to flour ...

Keep a beady eye out for 'pricing specials' scams


Ever seen a supermarket market pricing sticker with the words 'best buy' or 'great deal'? 

Is it really a good deal?

How do you know it's a great deal? 

Is there actually a price saving on offer or has the item simply had some puffery on the sticker placed next to it?

Perhaps a sign that simply says 'Three for a dollar' when the single item is also a dollar?

You would of course never fall for such a simple pricing scam, would you?

Of course not.

Well, people do and that's why supermarkets will keep advertising this way in-store.

Other tricks supermarkets do:
  • A few select products are sold at a loss to the store. This is so you recognize the price as being really good and it gets you into the store. Meat is a classic 'loss leader' as is orange juice.
  • Larger shopping trolleys will tend to be filled up more by the user
  • Supermarkets and strip malls will play music with a slow tempo so your walking around speed matches the music and you spend more time in the building which increases the odds of you adding that one extra thing to your basket.
  • The most profitable products are often placed at the end of the aisle. People often notice them....
Now you've learned about this, you know it's a shopping trap. The best advice is always to stick to buying what you need and not what you want!
One final, teach you to suck eggs thing   - write a shopping list out on your cell phone!
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