We’ve all been there – you swear you’re going to be “good” and only purchase the ingredients for your weekly meal plan at the grocery store. 30 minutes later, your cart is magically filled with candy bars, chocolate, chips, snacks and everything you swore you’d stay away from. Fret not, for there is a perfectly intellectual reason behind your impulse buys. This is what we call Supermarket Psychology. In more technical terms, supermarkets utilise expert retail merchandising methods and strategies to ensure that each customer purchases more than what they actually need. Sneaky? Maybe. Smart? Definitely. Today, I’ll be going through 6 of the most commonly used retail merchandising tips in supermarket. We’ll go through how you can spot them and perhaps even avoid falling for the junk food traps set all around for you to succumb to. Let’s get on with it, shall we.
1. Notice They Always Play The Best Tunes?
Okay, so music isn’t OFFICIALLY considered a retail merchandising tool, but it sure has an effect on how long shoppers dawdle around the supermarket or grocery store. Ever noticed that supermarkets tend to play catchy tunes that everyone just loves singing along to? This is one of the tactics utilised to encourage us hanging around for longer than we intend to. A famous study from a couple of decades ago found that people spent up to 35% more time in stores that play music VS stores that don’t. Music is one of the easiest ways to calm the soul, and as we know, our calm souls also love a bag of hot Cheetos.
2. Got Milk?!
Ever noticed that regardless of what kind of milk you purchase, you almost always can never spot the milk aisle from the supermarket entrance? Whether it’s Almond Milk, Oat Milk, Dairy Milk or Rice Milk, milk is one of the basic necessities for most households. If you’re planning to just grab a carton of milk on the way home from work, chances are you’ll have to walk down at least 5-6 aisles or to the back of the store before you can get your paws on your delicious milk. What does this mean? This means more time for you to come into contact with other items that are being sold such as chips, chocolate, candy and other quick purchases that most of us succumb to. Leaving the basic necessities out of sight and putting you through a jungle gym of incredibly tempting treats to get to your milk is truly, supermarket psychology 101.
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3. Your Supermarket Has Revamped its Layout
Everyone loves a fresh and brightly renovated supermarket. I’ll admit I get excited when my supermarket revamps itself every once in so often. What I don’t like, however, is how they change aisles and put things on different shelves all the time. If you’re used to going down Aisle 2 for bread and now Aisle 2 is full of baking products, chances are you’ll have to walk all around the supermarket looking for your beloved bread. This is another trick employed by supermarkets to ensure that you spend more time in the store, in the hopes of you purchasing things you may not really need.
4. Lots of RED and YELLOW!
Ever noticed that “special” stickers and signs often come in bright colours, mainly reds and yellows? Well there is a reason behind this too! Red is a colour that is psychologically linked to increasing ones appetite and can stimulate hunger in shoppers. Similarly, yellow triggers feelings of happiness and friendliness. Combine these two colours and you have a recipe for someone purchasing a lot of junk food, snacks, cakes and other feel good foods in the moment. (McDonald’s uses Red and Yellow, ahem ahem). Supermarkets craftily utilise colour to affect shoppers psychological states in the hopes of them purchasing more, and thus allowing revenue levels to soar! WOO CAPITALISM!
5. Candy at the Checkout Counter
So you’ve stuck to your grocery list and successfully managed to avoid the candy and chocolate aisle. You go girl! Ah, but wait, all of a sudden, you rock up to the checkout counter and you are faced with a mountain of candy bars on SPECIAL! The candy bars stare at you, and you stare back. “I shouldn’t”, you think. “AH FK IT!!”, you grab one. You have succumbed to Satan. Okay, I may be getting a little overdramatic, but we’ve all been in that spot. And guess what, it’s not really your fault. You’ll notice at every grocery or convenience store that the checkout is lined with an array of candy and chocolate, simply because it is the point of your shopping adventure where you are suffering from decision fatigue. This is also the same point at which you are more vulnerable to making impulse choices or decisions, hence resulting in you purchasing 10 Mars bars even though you said you were going on a diet. Don’t worry, I feel you, I always cave. You’re not alone.
6. Falling For The Bundles and Multi-Buys
Everyone loves a deal. This I know to be a universal similarity between all individuals on the planet. This is also what supermarkets love to use against us. Ever noticed that supermarkets make us believe that purchasing their bundles or multi-buy options is the most cost efficient way to shop? Whilst you may indeed save money per item, you’re still purchasing more than you need, which equates to spending more than you need. It is a known fact that people are likely to purchase more if there is a higher quantity offered in an offer. You may think, oh, I’ll just save these chips for next week. Chances are, you won’t save them and you’ll end up eating them all this weekend, only having to go out and purchase more the next week. Man, they’ve got us good.
So, How Can You Beat The Supermarket?
1. Create a grocery list and stick to it. Ensuring that you do not deviate from your list is a great way to avoid purchasing things that you do not need, even if you have to walk past them a thousand times. Get everything you’ve listen out, pay and leave!
2. Don’t shop when you are hungry. It has been proven time and time again that people who shop on an empty stomach end up purchasing more food than they need, often in the form of junk, ready-meal or candy/chips/chocolate. When you are hungry, you buy more. It’s as simple as that. Being hungry can also affect our decision making ability, allowing us to succumb to impulse purchases and buy more than we need.
3. A great way to avoid buying too much or purchasing things you don’t need is to use a shopping basket instead of a trolley or cart. Why? Well, simply because you’ll be less tempted to buy more stuff if your basket already looks full and plentiful. Shopping trolleys, on the other hand, offer you endless amounts of space to pile up with junk food and other purchases that you don’t really need.
4. Only purchase what you need, not what is on offer. Yes, it may be tempting to buy that three pack of cereal – but do you really need it? Sometimes less is more. You can always buy another box next month if need be. Always focus on what you need NOW, as opposed to what you THINK you may need next week. This is by far the greatest way to avoid falling for bundle traps or multi-packs. You’ll also save money at the end of the day which is always a great thing in my books!
5. Don’t fall for the bright lights or colours. Yes, that huge SALE sign may seem appealing, but it’s only there to encourage you to purchase things that you almost always don’t need. Just because something is surrounded in bright lights or fancy looking signs doesn’t mean you have to purchase it. Beware of the red and yellow devils for they are everywhere!!
And there you have it. HOW TO BEAT THE DAMN SUPERMARKET and hopefully save some money and take some inches off your waist for good! Until next time!