When supermarkets first opened in the UK people were afraid to pick up items and put them in their trolley for fear of being told off. Now we have the opposite problem; we can’t stop ourselves from picking stuff up.
The average UK shopper makes 221 trips to the supermarket every year, giving us ample opportunity to buy food we don’t need, but why do we do this? To understand, you must step into the meticulously managed marketing zone that is a supermarket, where millions have been invested into figuring out how to get you to buy more.
It’s all in the layout
The layout of a supermarket can encourage extra purchases. Have you ever stood in a queue at the till when a chocolate bar started sweetly calling your name? Some supermarkets place sweet treats and magazines at the till to encourage impulse buys. This tactic works particularly well on children who use ‘pester power’.
A nationwide survey shows that 83% of parents have been pestered by their children to purchase junk food at supermarket tills and 75% have given in and bought junk food.
Looking for essentials like eggs and bread
Have you popped to the supermarket to buy a pint of milk and come home with five full carrier bags? Some supermarkets put essentials, such as milk and bread, far away from the entrance. This means you pass countless special offers and tempting displays.
The essentials are also placed far away from each other. Sometimes eggs are hidden in store. This egg hunt makes you travel through the supermarket. More time spent in the supermarket equals more time to spend money.
Bargains at aisle ends
Promotions and special offers generally take place at the end of aisles as these areas have high visibility. In fact we have become so conditioned to expect bargains at the end of aisles that people are 30% more likely to buy items at the end of the aisle than in the middle.
Fruit and vegetables
Fresh fruit and vegetables are often at the front of the supermarket. This doesn’t make sense for consumers as these items are likely to get bruised. However, buying healthy foods puts shoppers in a good mood and may make them feel better about buying less healthy foods later on.
Pesky pricing strategies
We all love a bargain; our brains even experience pleasure at the prospect of a bargain. Data from Kantar Wordpanel suggests that 40% of groceries in the UK are sold on promotion, but are consumers really getting a good deal?
Paying £4 for two cakes priced at £2 individually is not a bargain, it’s just arithmetic. But if the individual price of the cake was increased to £3 before a multi-buy promotion, the £4 price would seem like a sweet deal.
Inconsistent unit pricing
Supermarkets sometimes show some products in kilograms and others in grams, making it difficult to compare prices.
Most consumers only know the price of about 20 essential items, which are referred to as ‘known value items’. These items are often sold at a loss. Often other items have high mark-ups.