Fact File: Supermarket Tricks to get you Spending

by Jadwiga O'Brien on May 20, 2011

Two women shopping in supermarket

Supermarkets are carefully designed to ensure that you spend the maximum amount!

You know how it is. You go into your local supermarket to pick up a pint of milk and a loaf of bread and come back out with a trolley full of shopping. The truth is, supermarkets work very hard to get you to buy more than you need through clever in-store marketing. In the business they’re known as “in-store strategies”.

While there are hundreds of “in-store strategies” being used across the globe, some of the most commonly used ones are listed below.

1. Enter at your Own Risk

The minute you set foot in the supermarket entrance, what do you see? Fresh fruit and veg. According to “supermarket psychologists”, people react positively to the healthy colours and smells of fresh fruit and veg. Putting them at the entrances ensures that the first emotion we have when we walk in the supermarket is positive.

2. Just a Carton of Milk Please…

In order to get the essentials – bread and milk – you will usually find yourself trekking through the supermarket towards the back or middle aisles.  Unfortunately, on your journey you will often be drawn in by the carefully placed offers and products which face you on your way.

3. Cereal vs. Sweets

Did you ever notice how often the cereal section is directly across from the sweets or desserts section? Usually, when mum or dad stops to pick up cereal, the kids have enough time to focus on the sweet things across the way and start pestering their parents for them.

4. Premium Products, Placement and Pricing

It’s not a coincidence that all the so called “premium” products are so well placed on the supermarket shelves. Big brands can afford to pay supermarkets for the best shelf spots. Unfortunately, the big brands are often the ones with the big price tags.

5. A Feast for the Eyes

The best spots for the most expensive branded products to be found are at eye level. This means that as you’re walking around, the things you can’t avoid facing are the products which will cost you the most money.

6. A Bargain at the End of the Aisle

Just like the light at the end of the tunnel, the bargain at the end of the aisle often seems too good to be true. This is because, a lot of the time, it is. Again, the big brand owners pay for the end aisle spots as they’re the best selling spaces. The products might be on special offer, but they still might be more expensive than the unbranded alternatives.

7. BOGOF (Buy One Get One Free)

You’re standing in front of a BOGOF offer. You think to yourself “That’s great value”. Oftentimes thinking you’re making a saving. However, once again, you will find that if you take the items that are on offer and compare them to similar products, you may still be paying more than you have to. As well as this, the “one-free” in the offer may eventually just end up as waste in the bin.

It is also interesting to note that the cost of putting products up on “special offer” is usually met by the producers, not the supermarkets.

8. A Matter of a Few Cents

You see a two-cent coin on the path in front of you. It’s hardly worth stopping an bending down for. It’s a similar story with pricing in supermarkets. Rather than selling products for €5.00, which seems like a lot of money, items are priced at €4.98 which is much easier on the eye, but not such a big change for your pocket.

9. Loyal Consumers

Do you think that shop assistants are interested in saving you money? Unless they’re a friend of yours, probably not. So why do they never forget to ask you for your clubcard or value card. The truth is, your buying behaviour is being recorded and used for market research so that supermarkets can find out what types/brands of products sell to different people. As well as this, the awards they offer often encourage further unnecessary spending.

10. Strategies for the Future

Shopping Trolley Ad Some of the in-store marketing plans for the future seem to have come straight off the pages of a Science Fiction novel. Video cameras, heat sensors and audio-recorders are being used at home and abroad to determine shoppers behaviour. Some of the new developments are even simpler, and you may have noticed them as the advertising that now decorates the shopping trolleys and baskets in some supermarkets.

So, where’s the bargain?

The bargains in the supermarkets are usually on the products that are thrown messily onto shelves or into trolleys, priced with big reduced stickers. Even more bargains can be found if you just shop carefully and spend some time comparing prices.

You’ll be amazed at how much you can change by just buying what you need rather than what you think you need.

Are you aware of any other supermarket tricks that get you spending more than you need to? Please share your supermarket experiences with us in the comments box below.

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