Consumers shopping habits have been put under a microscope and analyzed by the retail industry in order to maximize sales.
Shoppers have been as thoroughly studied as lab rats and the research has resulted in scientifically proven approaches to influence shopper’s emotions, to heighten their insecurities and to trick them in to buying things they don’t need or want.Joe Consumer has put together 10 of the most common retail tricks, along with tips for how to avoid being taken in. While some of these things may seem like common sense, each is a reaction to a specific tactic retailers use to get you to buy just one more thing.
My, that’s a big basket you’ve got there
retail-tricks-shopping-carts.pngStores have hundreds of enormous shopping carts parked conveniently at the entrance. Once you have selected something, you’re more likely to “find” additional items - after all, that empty space in the cart is just begging to be filled, you must have something else you can buy, right?
Tip: If you can skip the cart and make do with a basket, you’ll reduce the temptation to over buy. If you can get by without the basket, even better!
Mirror, mirror on the wall…
Vanity mirrors slow you down and keep you looking, but there is more than meets the eye. Most people can’t help but check themselves out, and who’s 100% satisfied with what they see? Making you more self-conscious helps you see new items as a solution. You are more likely to buy, when you’ve walked out of the house in something less flattering than what’s on the rack in front of you.
Tip: Wear something that looks good on you while you shop, and avoid mirrors unless you’re already trying something on. Not only will you feel more confident and buy less, you’ll generally get better service too.
Buy in bulk and save?
retail-ticks-buy-in-bulk.pngMisleading bulk sales are another retail favorite. There’s no difference between $5 each and the four for $20 on sale, except that you just might end up with three more than you wanted. Also, products sold in different volumes and weights often have prices that are chosen to confuse you. Shoppers tend to look at $10.49 for 48 ounces and think it’s the equivalent of $4.99 for 24 ounces even though it’s not -you’re paying more for less! Most grocery stores and pharmacies are required to provide per unit pricing signage, but these often don’t reflect sale prices.
Even when it is actually cheaper per unit to buy in bulk, it doesn’t mean you should! Do you really need a gallon of mayonnaise, or 1000 clothes hangers?
Tip: Compare unit prices, use that calculator on your cell phone, and don’t buy more than you can use, no matter the “savings”.
How did they stack all those boxes like that?
Those towering displays of intricately stacked boxes are called power displays, and they are meant to be speed bumps to slow you down and distract you from finding what you came for. Stores like Ikea have taken this to a whole new level. Their layout is specifically designed to require every shopper at least momentary exposure to every major showroom and floor, which increases the chance that you’ll come out with more than what you came in for.
Tip: Look for shortcut signs to areas of choice & beeline to the checkout.
To get to the cheese, you have to get through the maze
retail-ticks-hide-the-essentials.pngMilk, bread, restrooms — all the essentials — are all in the back of the store, because they’re staples that everyone needs, and relatively low margin. Putting them there forces you to check out other merchandise along the way. Getting them first can help you stick to your list.
Tip: Beeline to the back and work your way forward.
Bargain bins and going-out-of business sales
We all love feeling like we got a good deal, but don’t be fooled! While some stores pay their clerks to be obsessive about precisely-folded sweaters on display, others actually pay them to make sure the displays are just a bit little messy, because shoppers interpret that (often unconsciously) as a cue that other people thought it was a deal too. Others retailers are known to have annual moving sales, year end sales and re-opening sales that just amount to taking their leftovers off hangers and dumping them into clearance bins.
Tip: Evaluate the value of a “bargain” objectively, not by how wrinkled it is.
Oooh, something smells amazing!
retail-tricks-something-smells-amazing.pngStores and restaurants love to stimulate your appetite with provocative sights and smells. Grocery stores capitalize on hungry consumers by offering free samples, but this isn’t charity any more than the smell of freshly baked bread is an accident. These are signals to excite you and tempt you into buying foods that are likely no better for your financial health than your physical health.
Tip: Eat before you shop, or if you’re out shopping for the day, pack a water bottle and a snack!
Save even more with our charge card!
There’s a reason why department stores so cheerfully help you afford that overpriced indulgence with a discount on with a store charge card - they make the money later. You’re much more likely to buy big impulse items if you don’t have to count the dollars out the wallet you are holding.
Tip: Pay in cash. Going to the ATM and physically seeing your bank balance gives you that extra time to consider.
Retailers love to put children to work “helping” you find things
retail-tricks-kids-help-you.pngManufacturers advertise to children aggressively, so kids are primed to seek out products they have been exposed too. Stores know that catching a kid’s attention is a great way to get distracted parents to fork over cash for an impulse buy, and they purposefully put colorful, fun, shiny items within their reach.
Tip: Try to leave the kids at home, or have someone watch them. People tend to shop more efficiently without partners and friends, too.
Checking out? One last thing…
Drinks, candy, gum, media – all right by the checkout counter. This section is convenient in part because it is compact and limited, but it also means you can’t compare prices, and may not get your favorite brand.
Tip: Ask yourself if you actually need it, or if it’s worth your place in line to compare prices.