Three Mind Tricks That Supermarkets Use to Get Customers to Spend More

Woman choosing fruits

Supermarkets are a fixture in most big cities; whether you buy a few items at a time or compile a weekly list of necessities, you’re going to pay a visit to the local store sooner or later. But supermarket design employs some useful mind tricks to get people to buy more than what they need. To paraphrase a Star Wars character, “these are not the products you’re looking for” – but you’ll buy them anyway. Here are the major strategies to look out for.

Placement and layout

You may have heard this before, but it still works; products in a supermarket are arranged in a way that’s strategically designed to get customers to spend more. Store supervisors and their staff don’t just stuff their racks with the relevant products along each aisle, or mount carefully-placed wall brackets with just any item. The products displayed at the customer’s eye level are more likely to draw their attention and lead to more sales, making this section prime real estate for showcase items or those purchased in high volume. Adults have to stoop or stretch to reach other items, which makes the lower levels a fantastic space for children’s products. Premium items tend to be allocated space further up where customers making an intentional purchase are likely to make an effort. In the big picture, the entire layout of a supermarket tends to employ similar tactics of convenience; essentials tend to be located way at the back, ensuring that customers pass through a lot of displays to get there and back, while last-minute temptations like candy bars adorn the racks next to the checkout counter.

Sensory experiences

Woman buying at a supermarket

When you go shopping at retail stores these days, one of the main benefits of doing so (as opposed to buying online) would be the chance to feel a product, interact with it, or try it on. Most supermarkets take full advantage of this strategy by engaging all five senses as a customer goes about their business. Stalls near the entrance selling baked goods or freshly prepared food use the sense of smell to make customers hungry. Brightly colored, fresh produce is often among the first displays upon entering – and throughout the aisles, products are arranged with color blocking to make them visually interesting. You can not only pick up and touch almost anything in the supermarket, but many brands also offer tasting samples to entice customers into an impulse purchase. And while all this is happening, relaxing music is playing in the background to encourage everyone to take their time and potentially spend more.

Positive reinforcement

Supermarket aisles are clearly labeled with the product categories you’ll find therein; this facilitates navigation and makes the experience easier for customers. But within each aisle you may notice products that don’t fit – bananas in the cereal section, or chips next to dips or soft drinks. Most people like to consume these items together; thus, related product pairings in supermarket displays are merely a form of positive reinforcement. This tactic also pops up in the form of rewards programs, which make customers feel good about spending; in truth, these programs let stores use customer data to track and analyze spending patterns while also increasing loyalty and saving them on marketing costs.

Even with better awareness of these strategies, chances are you’ll still end up falling for some of these mind tricks at some point. But as long as you make a list and try to stick to it, you should do a fine job of navigating your next supermarket challenge.

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