Are you overpaying every time you go grocery shopping?
Food shopping has become such a repetitive and regular pursuit you might not be aware of all the steps grocery stores take to keep you in longer and make you spend more money.
I’ll break down all of this supermarket psychology.
In this episode of the Regained Wellness Podcast, we’re looking at all the tricks and strategies grocery stores use to keep you in longer and spending more money. I call it supermarket psychology!
In This Episode You Will Learn:
- Why grocery stores use the same design
- How they are made to keep you in longer
- Why certain items are where they are on shelves
- Grocery carts vs baskets
- Tips to strategically shop better
Supermarket Psychology & Shenanigans
Most everyone does their shopping at giant supermarket type grocery stores. No surprise there. What is of concern is when you realize how these stores are psychologically set up to get you to spend more money.
As you are aware everyone of these stores pretty much anywhere is set up the same way. Have you ever wondered why that is?
The first thing that greets you when you walk in is generally flowers, fresh produce and often things like a bakery. This is intended to stimulate your senses with smells and colors and hopefully make you shop with your stomach not your head.
This creates a positive consumer experience and the bright colors of flowers, fruits and vegetables create a calming effect which actually leads to overspending.
Notice that horrific muzak playing? Again slower-paced music is used to keep you calmer and in less of a rush thus spending more time in the store and being exposed to more products. The longer a person is in a store the more likely they are to purchase.
This is why there are no immediately available exits. Essentially leaving you to need to go all the way through the store to get back out. It is similar to a casino in that it’s set up to keep you inside and there are no clocks and very little natural light.
Bread, Milk & Eggs
What are the three staple items most people need? Milk, bread and eggs. Where are they kept? In the very back of the store. This forces you to trudge through the entire store in order to get to them, again on the way exposing yourself to thousands of products.
The layout of the store is to bring you in to follow around the outside. This is where all key items are including fruit, veg, meats, seafood, dairy etc. You must follow this ring to get to all these products and in the process are exposed to the ends of the aisle.
At the end of each aisle are ‘endcaps’ which offer big specials or featured products. This are set up to entice you down the aisle. The idea from there is that you will follow up and down each aisle keeping you in the store as long as possible, kind of like a funnel system. The aisles are also set up so that the most sought after items are right in the middle of it.
Set Up Of The Aisle
Top brand manufacturers pay big bucks to have their products displayed at eye level and stores charge slotting fees for these top positions. So obviously that is where you will find recognized brands as shelf position is paramount. Up higher on the shelves are more expensive specialty items and down on the bottom shelves are the knock-off generic store brand products.
Basically if you want something other than the name brand you will have to work for it by either reaching up or getting down low to search and supermarkets bank on your laziness to not do that.
Seems kind of ridiculous but we all do it when we can’t be bothered to pick up something we dropped or when we don’t get up to go get the remote and just deal with what we’re watching on t.v.
Not that I was watching Keeping up with Kardashians…..
Speaking of aisles have you noticed stores that have long mats down on the floor? Again that is to help slow you up as shopping carts have to be carefully maneuvered over them. The slower you go and more time you take the more likely you are to not just buy but over putchase.
Children Do The Shopping
Manufactureres know that children dictate a lot of a families purchases. Either by whining or crying for a certain product until parents are so fed up they just want to get out of there. I was definitely that kid screaming for this cereal. Sorry mom..
(fun fact: that girl played the younger sister of Lorraine Baines in Back To The Future. And I think was as tall as Michael J. Fox..)
When you go down a cereal aisle take notice of where the most “kid friendly” cereals are, lower down, right at kids eye level. Some stores resort to putting designs on the floor such as hopscotch right in front of those top brand name cereals to keep kids exposed to them longer.
In The Trolly Tracks
The good ol’ shopping cart. Who of us did not love standing on the end riding this silver chariot up and down the aisles. With their horrible handling and usually one wheel that wouldn’t roll at all, the shopping cart is another creation designed to get you to buy more.
Studies show that a small basket leads to less purchasing as it fills up quickly and a person will not take more than it can carry. Not the case with the shopping cart, they are massive and encourage people to fill them. A person can buy the same volume of food that will fill a basket but in a shopping cart it looks minimal and empty encouraging more purchases.
Think of this as a primitive hoarding scenario in that we need to use all available space. Supermarket directors know this and it’s why the shopping cart has increased in size by almost 30%.
And watch out for getting rammed in the back of the ankle..
Get You In, Keep You In
So with that being the plan and the average shopping trip covering around 25% of the store how else can they get you to spend money you don’t need?
- Shopping counterclockwise. Stores prefer to be set up with a counter-clockwise flow from when you enter, this has been shown to lead to $2 more spent per trip than clockwise shopping.
- Items that take a while to decide on such as baby food or coffee are put in lower-traffic areas to limit the feeling of being rushed or hurried by other shoppers. This keeps feelings of calm as well as keeping you in the store longer
- the color red used on sale signs is used to grab and hold our attention
- A last-second multi-display around the registers. Most people are aware that these are impulse item buys and these super colourful displays are in virtually every store in the world because they work.
How Specific Products Do Their Own Testing Before They Reach The Shelves
In the retail game nothing can be left to chance. From packaging, pricing and promotion all areas are covered and research is constantly done.
Coca-Cola is one of the top companies that examine how you observe and purchase their product. Coke owns a 15,000-foot testing facility that is set up in different areas. There is a convenience store, a fast-food layout, and even a supermarket.
These set ups look just like any store you would go into and Coke can test how the average person maneuvers through a store and their shopping patterns. This has led Coke to set up some features like specific lighting geared towards their products and a vertical brand-blocking arrangement that makes it easier for you to easily identify what you’re looking for.
And also no coincidence of all the use of the color red with Coke..
Every brand does this but Coke leads the way in the department. It is almost impossible to go into a supermarket and not notice that there is Coca-Cola there
How To Beat The Supermarkets At Their Own Game
Here now are a few ways you can not be sucked in to the over purchasing system that we encounter all the time:
- Go in with a shopping list. People who use shopping lists on average will spend a lot less than those who go in with no plan.
- DON’T SHOP HUNGRY! You would be surprised how much your purchases are dictated by hunger. Not only that when a person is hungry with low blood sugar they tend to buy worse quality food. Things like refined carbs and snacks are seen as a quick way to stamp out hunger. Remember about the smells of freshly baked bread.
- Sticking to the outer ring is not only where the real, whole food is but contains everything you actually really need to be healthy. Outside of the odd thing like nuts and frozen vegetables and fruit, there is NOTHING that is in the aisles that you need to be healthy.
- If it’s in a package don’t buy it! Ideal food does not come in a package nor does it have an ingredient list or nutrition information attached to it. Packaged and manufactured food will cost more overall than fresh produce so do your wallet and your waistline a favor. You can read more about the benefits of real food, and the things to eliminate for better health.
Wrapping It Up
There are ways to shop smart and to shop healthy. Having a plan and being aware of ploys used by supermarket psychology can make you a more conscious and ultimately healthy person.
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