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Most of us like to think we are in control when we “pop down to the shops”, but supermarkets spend millions of dollars researching consumer behaviour in order to develop tactics to compel you to buy more in their stores.
In a new article in Choice magazine, Dr Paul Harrison highlights some of the ways that supermarkets persuade us to buy.
By setting up different “marketplace” areas, our minds are tricked into thinking we’ve visited several different stores rather than a single big shop. Each of these areas has different lighting, floor coverings and sometimes individual counters for service (such as a deli). “It’s all about creating a market-like feel,” says Harrison. “Areas such as the bakery, apart from smelling good, give the impression the supermarket is trustworthy; it’s like they’re saying, ‘you can trust us because we make stuff ’.”
According to Dr. Harrison, no matter what we might like to think it’s human nature to be attracted to a bargain. “Although we think we know we’re being manipulated, we tend to fall for it anyway.” Even the word “special” plays on our subconscious. “Just the word sets off a psychological process in your mind where if something is labelled ‘special’ we think it must be good. It also feeds into a theory known as the scarcity effect. This is where we think that if it’s on special, then it must only be available at this shop or for a short time, and we afford it more value than the products around it.”
A classic retailing trick is to locate the milk and bread at the very back of the store (often at either end) to encourage short-term shoppers to walk right through the shop and be tempted to buy other, more expensive products along the way. Recent research has shown it’s actually more efficient to have these products toward the front of the store, and place the other impulse products close by. “Smart supermarkets are putting a small area with a limited selection of bread and milk at the front of the shop for those shoppers whose motives won’t be modified, and then having a more extensive selection of bread and milk at the back,” says Dr Harrison.
Read the full article in Choice magazine