Supermarket tricks

Thursday July 17, 2008

Have you ever gone to the supermarket to buy a few essential items and come back with more than you bargained for?

You are not alone, and it's all because of marketing by supermarkets.

It should come as no surprise that supermarkets want you to spend money.

By using clever tricks, stores lure you into buying more than just what's on your shopping list.

Recent surveys found that 40 per cent of what consumers actually buy are impulse items, products that we did not intentionally mean to buy.

Christopher Zinn, from CHOICE says supermarkets use marketing and basic psychology to try and convince consumers to remain in their stores and buy products they don't need.

”All supermarkets employ these tricks, some more overtly than others. Everything from lighting, music and product placement is controlled by the supermarket in order to have you spend more.”

So how do the big stores get you to spend more than you intended to?

Creating the right environment

Stores take two very different approaches here. Some place bright lights and louder music in the sweets isle to make you feel overwhelmed, and therefore make poor decisions, says Zinn

”Studies show that when people are not comfortable, they make poor decisions. When you are not in a good frame of mind, you reach for something that makes you feel better such as junk food.”

The second strategy is stores install softer lighting with slow, pleasant music. They think that you'll be more likely to stay in the store, and therefore more likely to buy more items.

Different colours also evoke different emotions and reactions. People are drawn to red and trust the colour blue more.

”Supermarkets have taken this research and used it to their advantage by changing the colour in different parts of the store,” says Zinn.

Supermarkets also use the sense of smell to entice people to buy items they didn't want.

”They'll bake cookies and place them when you walk in or some other trick,” Zinn explains.

Product placement

Supermarkets will often entice shoppers with ‘specials’, however, quite often the product on ‘special’ is not set at a cheaper price.

Where an item is placed on a shelf can all have a he impact on impulse buying.

”Research has shown that people don't look beyond items at eye level much. Therefore, supermarkets put the most expensive brands at eye level and the cheaper brands either up or down on shelves. If you're looking for a deal, make sure you look up or down,” says Zinn.

Supermarkets have also been accused of often changing the layout of the stores to confuse the customers.

”The thought is that if you don't know where your items are, you'll go isle by isle and pick up more than you need or want.”

Pushing the big brands

Ever heard the saying you can’t judge a book by it’s cover? The same can be said about groceries!

Since you can’t tell how good an item is until you try it, consumers use packaging to help their decision making.

”More expensive brands tend to have fancier labelling then generic brands. Therefore we assume the quality is better and are willing to pay higher prices, regardless of whether that is true, says Zinn.”

Supermarkets also use random pricing and weights to make it harder to compare prices and products quickly.

So how can you ensure you stick to your budget?

Zinn says there are some simple tips to avoid falling for these tricks.

He recommends writing a shopping list before you venture out and having a budget which you stick to.

Zinn says there is also no reason you shouldn't buy items on special but make sure what you're getting is really a deal.

He also suggests a "cool off" period of walking where you evaluate whether you really need the item.

”But most importantly don't ever shop hungry because your eyes will be bigger you’re your stomach. You'll buy things you won't need and you’ll end up wasting money!

For more information on supermarket tricks, check out the August edition of Slimming and Health magazine.

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