Most consumers don’t mind going grocery shopping and make it a regular habit. After all, we have to eat and what better place to find the food items you need than at the local grocers? According to Plus Finances the average household spends approximately 20-25% of their income on groceries. When you consider that percentage at a time when being thrifty is only sensible, it would seem logical to limit the amount you spend on groceries. Grocery store owners, on the other hand, have a different agenda. They operate in a way that is designed to cause you to spend more than you mean to. Interestingly, many grocery shoppers are not aware of this grocery story psychology.
In order to effectively market their goods and make a profit grocery store owners must have knowledge of consumer behavior and understand how the shopper thinks. According to studies done by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), everything is monitored, including the types of foods the customer purchases, ethnic group preferences, and which store features are used. Psychologists and researchers carefully observe shoppers’ behavior and have developed some amazing sales strategies. Their goal is to make you stay in the store longer, pick up more items than you originally went there for and ultimately spend more money than you intended to spend. Let’s take a look at some of the more frequently-used strategies employed by supermarket chains to get you to buy more.
Impacting the senses
Stores have to appeal to the senses. What you see and smell when you first enter the store is designed to make a positive impression on you. The store needs to give the appearance and smell of freshness. Fresh flowers are often near the front entrance. The bakery is also placed near the entrance so the aroma of baked goods can tempt you as you enter, making you hungry. (If you’re hungry when you shop you tend to buy more). Fresh fruits are also located near the front of the store as they are more appealing in a more natural light. Bright lights, soft music and a variety of colors throughout makes most grocery stores very inviting. The customer enjoys being there and the shopping experience is usually a pleasant one.
Location of staple items
Staples such as milk, eggs and bread are rarely in the same location. In an article by Lawrence Journal World and News, we are reminded that the freshest staples are usually put in the back of the store. This causes the customer to have to travel through the store in order to buy milk with the hope that along the way they will impulsively pick up other items.
Point of sale displays
Most grocery stores will change their displays regularly. Point of sale displays also draws the customer by placing attractive items at the check-out counter. According to Gaebler Resources for Entrepreneurs, most consumers make quick decisions, thus items need to be positioned in an eye-catching manner. Items placed at the end of the aisles nearly shout at you as you pass by but are not necessarily on sale, even though they may be given that appearance.
When you frequent a certain grocery store over time you become familiar with where items are located. It becomes a bit confusing when the items have been moved to a different location in the store. Grocery stores do this rearranging so the customer can see and buy other items as they hunt for the item they came for.
Every grocery store seems to have mastered the art of placing certain items at eye level. Usually these are the more expensive items. Interestingly, many shoppers are in a hurry when they grocery shop and won’t take to time to look on the upper or lower shelves to find the same type of food item at a cheaper price. More expensive items are also placed in the centers of the aisles, again causing you to have to walk farther.
Making appeals to the children
Supermarkets can pretty much guarantee that shopping with children will cause you to spend more money. Children are impulsive and impatient and can get pretty restless during a shopping trip. They are also highly influenced by the advertisements they have seen on TV. Sugar-coated cereals are placed on shelves right at their eye level. Candy bars, small bags of snacks and even sodas are located right at the check-out counter. When the line is long and the kids are restless, parents often give in by buying them something from the counter to keep them quiet.
Have you ever wondered why items are marked at $3.99 instead of rounded up to an even $4.00? Psychologically your mind will think you are saving money when you’re actually not. According to Science, Physics, Tech, Nano and News (Physorg), 78% of those who shop on a budget try to track their costs as they shop but unfortunately often fail, often overspending up to 19% more than they had planned. Shoppers often estimate their total as they place items in the cart. Physorg suggests that when the price endings are between 50 cents and 99 cents, the shopper should round up to the next dollar to avoid over-spending.
Grocery shopping tips
In spite of all the grocery store psychology and planning that goes on behind the scenes, you can still have an enjoyable and economical grocery shopping if you remember these general tips:
1) Make a grocery list and stick to it. Knowing what you want ahead of time keeps you from wandering and making unneeded purchases. Don’t trust your memory.
2) Don’t shop when you’re hungry. This invariably will make you buy more.
3) Try to limit your trips to the grocery store. The more often you have to go, the more money you are likely to spend.
4) Avoid getting a shopping cart when a smaller handheld basket will hold your items. This will keep you from adding items you don’t really need.
5) Avoid over-buying. It doesn’t make much sense to stock up on perishables items even if they are at a great price. Chances are you won’t consume them before they spoil. Check carefully to see if things marked on sale are truly a bargain for you.
6) Shop without the children whenever possible.
7) Buy store brands or generic brands instead of popular name brands.
There is an art to grocery shopping, both on the part of the shopper and the owners of the store. Understanding the grocery store psychology and marketing strategies can be very helpful to shopper. Be a smart shopper by carefully analyzing why you are buying what you’re buying and always ask yourself, “Do I really need this at this price today?”
Frugal for life: “The psychology behind grocery store design”
Lawrence Journal World and News: “Shelf control: The psychology of grocery shopping”
CNN News: “Is the grocery store ripping you off?”
Physorg: “Shoppers who try harder to estimate spend more”
Food Marketing Institute: “FMI research”