Few people enter a store and carry out only what they need. Whether it may be a box of biscuits on the promotion or sweets taken from the cash counter line, something in the checkout conveyer’s belt was not on the list.
We were all there, choosing at will and spending more money than we expected. But it is not entirely our fault. You see, we have a problem shopping. We react to directions mentioned on our supermarket tour.
There are no longer big stores just designed to meet demand. It is a carefully crafted journey of behavioral cues and sensory experiences for one purpose: is to use it to make the most of it.
For those of us who like to save some money a little bit, this is not a piece of good news. So if we want to protect our banking standards, we need to understand our supermarkets’ tactics and, most importantly, how we can protect our wallets from them.
And with this in mind, let’s go shopping.
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The idea of front-of-store freshness
Ah, the scent of flowers and the beautiful colors of fruits and vegetables! You have arrived.
As you walk into your supermarket, you are brain greeted by a nervous breakdown. The bright colors and fragrance of the store are designed to elevate your sense of shopping experience. Why? Because science tells us that when you feel good, you spend more money.
Psychologists refer to this brain effect as, “an obvious initiation of the brain’. The stimulus influences the subsequent response to another motivation stimulus. Supermarkets have been seeking to enhance this commendable effect for decades. They are working with farmers to enhance the color of bananas. Constant spraying fruits and vegetables to give consumers the image of being freshly picked up from the farm.
However, none of this makes sense. Because when you go around the store later, you put in
your shopping trolley with sweets, those beautiful flowers, fruits, and vegetables are crushed and damaged in the delivery process.
Store journey builds to make you spend more on needless things
After you have taken your fruit and vegetables – and that pile of flowers that were not on the list – you go and get the following items from the list: milk and butter.
But wait a minute. Half of the milk is on the other side of the store. So why not make your way across the corridors to the promised land of milk?
That’s the design process that compels us to take this journey across the supermarket. The important difference is that if you are full of certain fruits, bread, and milk, you will have to walk the full length of the supermarket to get them. And while you are doing that, you will probably get in the middle of the place and pick up some unuseful items.
Everything is structured to ensure you maximize your time in the store. And this is not a simple question of how much more time is worth spending. No, it’s worse than that. Scientific research has shown that our decision-making process is unthinkable and emotionally draining after some time in the store. So, not only does this extra time in the store mean that we may be able to buy more, but it also means that the quality of our purchasing decisions decreases.
Dr. Paul Mullins and his experienced research team at Bangor University directly demonstrated this effect using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology on the brain. In a supermarket, Dr. Paul Mullins’s team found that after 23 minutes, customers began to make decisions about the purchase from the emotional part of their brain. Rather, than the rational operational segment of their brain. Worse, after 40 minutes – the time it takes for the typical weekly store – they find that the brain is tired and clogged, stopping making up logical thoughts.
The sinful temptation for eyes is the racked product
Your Shopping cart is half full now. You have there for 25 minutes you walk into your store and accept that you will probably pick up a few items that are not on the list. As you enter the next aisle, you scan the shelves where a well-known cereal product catches your eye. You usually do not buy it. But with a small tempting discount, you take two boxes and put them in the cart. Meanwhile, the fresh fruit and vegetables are now completely immersed down in all your other things on top.
There is nothing wrong with taking some kind of cereal. Probably it could be good. The most interesting part is why you took it? That packet was properly placed at a designated level to bring the highest profitability of the cereal product. The cereal business paid good money for that premium shelf space for that reason.
And this placement of the product is based on consumer behavior research. Supermarket understanding of relevant standards and brand placement has benefited from eye-tracking technology. In The Art of Shopping book: How We Buy and Why We Buy, Mr. Simeon Scammel-Katz demonstrates with this optimum decision-making technology that “we naturally look lower than the level of the eyes somewhere between the waist and chest”.
As a result of that research, this ‘catch-up’ space has become a much sought, expensive consumer goods store for consumers. Supermarkets and consumer goods companies know: we have a problem buying more items at the holding level, although there are other ways to save more or less on the shelves.
Store advertising gondola ends
You have now packed your shopping cart, and you are on the way to the end. As you walk down the aisle of the store toward the milking parlor, you are greeted by a multitude of promotions along the street. Your mind is tired. The chocolate and crisps seem to be a ‘good value’. There is only one thing about it. You push them into the trolley with a heartbeat and move on to the milk stage.
Those chocolates and crisps are in the most profitable area of the store. Gondola limits are where products go for recognition. Some places generate high revenue and high product reliability, with a substantial premium for the manufacturers.
And they are the ultimate promotional devices for tired consumers. As Simeon Scammel-Katz explains in his book, these gondola conclusions do not even need to be promoted at a real price. Just the appearance of a price with big discount tags is enough to increase sales from these positions.
In addition, as marketers advance in technology, these gondola conclusions are likely to benefit from digital marketing skills. They will benefit from the science of advertising and customize digital content to stimulate our tired brains to buy more and more.
Last resort for checkouts
40 minutes after looking at your list of essentials, you take the milk and butter and direct it to the exit line. As you patiently wait for the transmission to roll, your eyes are drawn to the chocolates and candy shelves in the queue. You deserve a reward after all that exhausting shopping, so take a few candy bags while you wait. Heck, you will even open the candy bags in the car on the way home.
You have come to the place of gold, where our tendency to use force is very high in the store. Our brains are tired now, and our ability to make wise decisions about spending money has exceptionally diminished. Supermarkets take us where they want us to go.
And so they go out of their way to come up with something out of the ordinary. Especially those that are very hard to resist.
Big trollies, big money spending
Exhausted, you filled your shopping cart to the brim. And as you return an empty cart to one of the ports, you put it in a long line of large carts. Across the long line, you see a small number of small trollies. ‘How can a person weigh all his purchases there?’ He wondered, troubled by a feeling of guilt.
After all, a big shopper trolley also encourages us to buy more needless products. According to Martin Lindstrom, by doubling or making the trolly size bigger by 50 percent, people intend to buy typically buy 40 percent more. Much like the use of larger plates in our diet, the greater the savings, the more often we eat.
What if you did it differently?
One week left and it is time to buy groceries again. But this time you are armed with some new knowledge in the mindset tricks you are looking for.
Before you leave the store, prepare a comprehensive list of the things you need and eat a healthy dinner/lunch /breakfast rather than fill your tummy before shopping. As you park and hold your shopping cart, you select a smaller option – that should be enough to carry everything you need on your list.
You walk into a store and take in the deep smell of fresh flowers. Jump straight past them and pick up fruits and vegetables from your list, and place them neatly in the front of your shopping cart. They will not be crushed and injured there.
As you navigate your list systematically, you know that gondola rides and catch-all products, but stick to your points for essentials and run through the shopping list quickly, avoiding any aisles you don’t need to browse. And even if you find yourself ‘browsing’, looking up and down, fighting your natural tendency to buy at the catch level.
You are close to 20 minutes on your shopping trip and you are already on the final lap of the trip to the dairy section. You take some milk and go to the barn. Your little cart won’t fill up
even if you find everything you need.
As you wait in the exit queue, you wonder how much you will save on your new way. You take the chocolate bar and put it in the trolley. In this case, he made a conscious, wise, and profitable decision.