Almost every shopper realizes that varying forms of psychology are employed in the grocery store. If you have ever picked up a candy bar or salty snack while waiting in line at the checkout counter or grabbed a cold bottle of water at the end of a shopping trip you have probably thought about how convenient it was that said item was available not only right when you needed it, but right when you wanted it.
The checkout counter is the most obvious instance of psychological product placement in the grocery store, and it is there not only for the benefit of adults who can’t wait until they get home to have a bit to eat but also for the benefit of children who see a beloved treat and know how just how to plead. Beyond this subtle bit of psychological mischief at the counter, there are more tricks at the supermarket that can cause you to spend more than $1.00 you did not intend to.
When you are shopping and you see a sign that states “buy 2 for $5.00” or “buying limit 10”, you are being lured into buying more of any one item than you want or need. Studies published in the Journal of Marketing Research have shown that people will spend more money and buy many more of any given item when a high number is placed in front of them.
The study showed that in many instances people will only buy 1 or two of atypical food product on their usual trip to the grocery store. When a large number is placed in front of them, even if they do not shop up to the limit specified on a particular placard they will buy more than usual. It is presumed this is because a larger number than usual has been placed in front of them leaving room for feelings of thriftiness despite spending more than typical.
It is somewhat well-known that in most stores products like milk and eggs are placed in the back of the store because they are common products that the family will stop by for on a regular basis. Making it necessary for the shopper to walk by several aisles of products to reach a needed purchase increases the chances of an impulse shopping grab.
Another example of staggering products is present in the cereal aisles in most grocery stores, including Hyvee chains. Sugary cereals with favorite characters such as Tony the Tiger and Toucan Sam are placed at eye level for children while healthy options are placed on higher shelves for adults.
The grocery store experience from the basics needed for daily life to the checkout counter candy is a dedicated choice engineered by store planners to ensure you buy what you need as well as more of what you want.
Cornell University Food and Brand Lab: Grocery Store Psychology.
LJWorld.com: Shelf Control – the Psychology of Grocery Shopping.