Recently I was walking around my local supermarket, one of the big two grocery chains in Australia, and started to ponder about the psychology behind the layout of the store.
It occurred to me that visual merchandisers (people who’s living is based upon store design and layout) were paid extravagant numbers to run around and change how the store operates in order to further increase sales conversions. Things such as shelf height, product placement, ease of use and more are taken into account - all for the one purpose, which is to make you spend more money.
To get your thoughts flowing, consider this - why is it that a supermarkets number one selling item (milk) is placed at the back of the store? It’s not just because that is where the fridges are, it’s because they want you to walk past other products first. Interesting? I think so, so let’s move on and look at other ways they make you spend more money in both the supermarkets and retail outlets.
Store location and layout
As noted before, the location of certain products is crucial for supermarkets to make you spend more money. The milk will almost certainly be at the back of the layout and will make you walk past easily purchased impulse items such as junk food and bare essentials.
To put this to the test, I walked down both of the big two supermarkets to get some milk.
One store I had to walk past the chocolate and lolly section, with bright screaming signs asking me to spend money for super duper specials, I kept my eyes straight ahead and progressed!
The second store once again had the milk at the back and was situated right next to the entry to the junk food isle also, as before - I kept the milk on my mind!
One point for the consumer, zero for the supermarket.
As I went to purchase my milk, guess what is at the checkout? More incidental items and quick buys. Junk food, cheap magazines, chewing gum, mints and even soft drinks on special. The supermarkets see this as the last chance to really up sell you and see if you want to grab something small for the road.
We cannot be sure of sales figures, but I would feel very confident in saying that incidental buys like that make up a huge part of their annual revenue.
God that smell makes me hungry!
An interesting thing to remember is that smell plays a large part in consumer buying behaviour. Take Starbucks for instance, they were once selling some food item (I can’t remember now, maybe Cinnamon toast?) and later removed it from their menu as the smell was over riding that of their coffee and actually created a sales drop.
So next time you are in a supermarket and the bakery section is cooking away, remember the above!
What music are they playing?
Music also plays a fundamental role in making you want to buy something.
The next time you are in a shopping centre, close your eyes and have a listen. Department stores will likely be playing soothing music, part of a strategy to slow you down and encourage you to take your time looking at all the items that surround you.
Supermarkets will play you easy going hits, ones that make you sing along and feel energised – this is said to increase your chances of impulse buying and moving away from your shopping list.
Boutique specialty stores will play music that appeals to their direct audience, giving them a sense of belonging. A great example was listening to ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ in a sporting shop the other day.
You aren’t buying a product, you are buying a solution to a problem
The visual merchandisers will purposely setup items to appeal to how you would use them. Consider when you go to Ikea and they have the chair you are after situated around a desk and 100% setup like it was in a home already. They do this to help motivate you and help the approval process of whether or not you would use that item.
Overly colourful signs
In order for you to purchase something, the retailer will try and make you stop. That is why they have attractive displays, bargain signs, special cards and more. They hope that by making you stop, they will be able to put the hard sell on you and in turn have an extra product jump into your trolley. If you like the look of the item, why not come back to it? It won’t run away.
The shelf height
Expensive items are situated on the middle shelf as it is at eye height. They want you to view the most expensive products first to then realise that the ones below and above are of lesser quality (though this normally isn’t true). Now days however, the supermarket brands tend to take this space as they provide stronger margins.
Children’s items are always placed at their height also - maybe we can blame the supermarkets for the invention of the tantrum?
Buy one, get one free
There seems to be a never ending supply of multi buy promotions doesn’t there? Buy one shampoo and get one free. What a bargain! Or is it? Sometimes the prices are marked up to account for a few dollars of the other item, and do you really need another shampoo sitting there for 3 months?
Size really does matter
Ok so get your mind out of the gutter and back onto this article! Notice how there is a million trolleys but limited baskets? This is once again a tactic in the pursuit of making us buy more. If we are dragging a trolley around that is very empty, we are more tempted to fill it. So always try and grab a basket if you are doing a quick shop, it will be lighter and easier to use and will save you a few dollars!
Taste testing and trying before you’re buying
Most supermarkets will setup taste testing booths for new product launches. It always amazes me how many people actually go on to buy those products because they felt compelled to or where hungry. It’s much like trying on clothes at a department store, you have the assistant following you around and asking if they can bring you other sizes and more - this relationship though it may feel subtle and helpful is just another sales motive that will help ease you into making a purchase.
You are now armed with information
See whether this changes the way you view supermarkets from now on, if anything you will now be more switched on and ready to save.
||Alex Wilson is the founder and editor of Savings Guide, Australia’s number one saving money website. For regular money saving tips, visit Savings Guide or follow Savings Guide on Facebook.