When you walk into a supermarket, the game begins between you and the sales/marketing team of that supermarket.
Your goal is usually to get in and out with the groceries that you need.
Whereas, their goal is to influence your buying in an attempt to get you to spend as much money as possible. Largely, this is done by specifically designing a supermarket that leverages off the findings from behavioural economics research.
A humble trolley
Prior to walking into the supermarket, you will often head over to the trolley area. Unfortunately, there is more to that humble trolley than you might think.
One of the first shopping trolleys, referred to as a ‘folding basket carrier’, was introduced in 1937. It consisted of a foldable metal frame that moved around on wheels and could hold two small baskets. Since then, the design has undergone numerous changes. However, of most note has been its size and carrying capacity. For example, most trolleys that you find today in supermarkets are much larger in size and carrying capacity than their predecessors.
Whilst there are many good reasons for this change, a larger array of items available in supermarkets to purchase for example, a major reason is the impact that a trolley’s size and carry capacity has on us from a psychological point of view. Namely, the bigger the trolley, the greater the likelihood that we will be inclined to fill it further.
You have probably heard the phrase, ‘First impressions matter’. When it comes to supermarkets, this is particularly relevant. As we often have multiple competing priorities, setting the time aside to do the shopping can be quite stressful (especially if we have children that need to tag along). This means that our initial mood when we step through the entrance of a supermarket can often not be ideal from the point of view of a supermarket’s sales/marketing team. Namely, we want to get the experience over and done with as quickly as possible.
Consequently, after negotiating the trolley selection, the first thing that confronts you in a supermarket is often the bakery and fresh produce sections, as well as some ambient music playing over the internal speakers. The smell of freshly baked goods, the brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, and the often slow tempo music are all attempts to try to ‘recalibrate’ your mood to something more conducive. They are looking to elicit two main responses, relaxation and hunger, because studies have shown that these things can influence your spending behaviour:
Have you ever had to pick up some mid-week supplies, such as bread and milk, and found yourself with a few extra items when you reach the checkout area? One of the reasons for this is the layout of the supermarket departments (bakery, fresh produce, meat/deli, general grocery, dairy, frozen goods etc.).
By placing essential items, such as the bread and milk example above, at different ends of a store, it requires you to walk through other departments to get to what you want. This tactic is aimed at distracting and enticing you towards other items that you see along the way.
There are many tactics employed by the sales/marketing team when it comes to aisles, such as displays and general product placement. We have listed a few here:
The finish line
Checkouts and those last minute purchases
You made it, albeit probably with a little more in your trolley than expected. Now it’s time to put everything through the checkout. But wait, what about those chocolates, magazines, and chewing gum that are just within arm’s reach. This is one of the last attempts by the sales/marketing team to get you to purchase more items. Unfortunately, this can often be especially difficult to navigate past if you have children accompanying you.
As you might have already been aware, the supermarket is a complex place. Thought has been put into every little detail often with the sole aim of influencing your buying. So when you do your next grocery shop take some time to be mindful of all the different tactics that are employed by a supermarket’s sales/marketing team – you might just find that you spend less and save more.
Lastly, we leave you with a few handy tips for your next shop: