Ever wondered why the milk is located at the back of the supermarket and the cosmetics at the front of the department store?
Have you found yourself humming along to the easy listening hits piped through the grocery store, throwing products into your trolley as you try to remember the next line?
Retailers spend millions of dollars a year to make your shopping experience a pleasant (read: expensive) one. The more you enjoy it, they figure, the more you'll spend. And it works.
Well, forewarned is forearmed. Here is our list of the top 10 sneaky tricks that retailers use to part you from your hard-earned cash. If you'd like to be able to shop without blowing the budget every time, take note:
1. Location, location, location
In retailing, as in real estate, location is everything. The milk is at the back of the supermarket for the simple reason that you have to walk past everything in the shop to get to it. There's no dashing in and dashing out again. Instead there's enough time to remember that you also need dishwashing detergent, garbage bags and, oh yes, Tim Tams. The best layouts are designed to keep you moving and often follow a curving path (think of an IKEA store or your local Target). The effect is to have you "wander around".
2. Refer to rule one
While we're on the subject of location, it's no accident that small, incidental purchases are placed close to the cash registers. Magazines, chocolate bars, batteries … the kind of stuff you never remember unless it's staring you in the face. In the same way, lip glosses, scented candles, soaps, those little "comedy" books, key rings and the like will be placed tantalisingly near the counter of specialist shops. It makes it easier for you to say "oh, and this too, thanks". You'll also often see products classified as impulse buys placed at the ends of aisles, making them hard to miss.
3. Smells like teen spirit
Probably bigger in the US than it is here, scent can be used to create a buying ambience. The classic is coffee and freshly baked bread in supermarkets (try smelling either and not feeling hungry), but there have also been cases where sports stores have been scented to smell like locker rooms (supposedly to make you feel like an athlete).
4. My kind of sound
Next time you're shopping, close your eyes and listen to the tempo of the sounds being piped through the aisles. In a traditional department store, the music is likely to be soothing — aimed at slowing you down and encouraging you to linger over the merchandise. Supermarkets play those comfortable, easy hits that have you singing along and probably not sticking as closely to your shopping list as you should. Specialty stores will use music to reflect the kind of customer the retailer is targeting — young, funky boutiques play young, funky music (usually at ear-splitting levels).
5. Show me the money
Visual merchandising (a fancy name for displays) offers more ammunition. By putting items together in an attractive way, or, in the case of home stores, showing a room setting that allows you to imagine the items at your place, retailers are doing the hard work for you. So rather than buying the picture frame you went in the store for, you might buy three (they "group" so nicely) — and perhaps a rug, lamp and cushion to "tie the look together".
This kind of enticement begins with the glossy catalogues that stores now produce. No longer just a photographic show-through of a company's product, the catalogues are selling "see-yourself-here" lifestyle aspirations.
6. Look at me
To make you buy, the retailer has to get you to stop. The more you stop to look at attractive displays or interesting details or "bargain" signs, the more likely it is that extra stuff will find its way into your basket or trolley. To combat this, keep on walking — if it's that interesting, you can always go back later.
7. Shelf possessed
It's no accident that the most expensive items in a supermarket are placed at eye level (or that products aimed at kids are placed about three-feet from the ground). We see therefore we buy. It takes a savvy shopper to know that cheaper products are usually on the bottom shelves. Bend a little and save.
8. Twice as nice
How many times have you been seduced by the supermarket "multi-buy" or the shoe stores "two-for-one" offer? Using the words "two for one" instead of "50 percent off" have been shown to increase purchases by up to 150 percent! Apparently we feel we're getting value rather than simply getting something cheap. Ask yourself this: do you really need two?
9. Size does count
It's very hard to over-shop with a basket — space is at a premium — which is why some retailers push us towards trolleys. Your three-item shopping list — toothpaste, butter, tuna — looks very lonely in a huge trolley and it's hard to avoid the temptation to throw in extra products to keep them company. Before you know it, you've racked up a huge bill.
10. When trying has you buying
Clothes-shopping has many traps for the unwary. From the salesperson who tries to develop "a relationship" with you (so that you trust her judgement and will take her advice on additional purchases) to the little "extras" that are vital to making an outfit "work" — think jewellery, bag, shoes, scarf … and the list goes on. It also seems that simply trying something on can lead to a purchase. It's called "claiming ownership" and the logic goes that once you've had that coat on your back you'll feel less happy about putting it back on the rack. Nobody's suggesting you shouldn't try before you buy, but beware those possessive feelings.
Damn, i feel like i'm getting 'tricked' everytime i go shopping now, lol. Not really, but props for whoever had the idea of putting candy near the registers! :p