Brain Scams: Supermarkets influence our food choices
There are a lot of reasons we buy what we buy at the grocery store, from lifestyles to economic factors. But something else is at play: a few wily supermarket tricks. Retailers realize their customers are tired and distracted. They also know we process a heck of a lot of information each day, which means our brains have to make judgment calls in split seconds. Supermarkets capitalize on consumer psychology and get inside your head. Pay attention: the only way to win at the grocery store is if you’re aware of these tricks.
Milk in the Back: Refrigerated food trucks unload in the back, but keeping the staple food at the far end of the store also ensures customers walk the length of the supermarket and snag more items.
Over-sized Shopping Carts: Carts are getting bigger, and studies show using one can cause you to buy more, according to TODAY. Use a basket if available, or — better yet — don’t get more than you can carry in your arms.
Slow Music: Supermarkets often play slow music, which encourages customers to linger and spend more time shopping. Set a timed shopping goal or listen to higher-tempo tunes through headphones as you shop.
Paper Bags for Bread: Is the roll you bought dry by morning? Stores use paper bags so the bread will stale quickly, getting customers back in the store sooner for a fresh loaf. Try using plastic bags that seal to minimize waste and postpone the grocery trip.
Careful Shelving: Store shelf layouts are as carefully designed as an Arrested Development joke. Stores display name brands and expensive options at adult eye level and colorful mascots at lower levels for children. Scan all options and check the top and bottom shelves instead.
End Caps: Aisle-end displays capitalize on convenience and impulse buying to create the illusion of a special sale.
Store Cafes: Many supermarkets operate cafes for “on-the-go” lifestyles, encouraging shoppers to linger and spend more.
Checkout Stands: Candy, magazines and soda displays at checkout stands appeal to shoppers’ subconscious impulses while they wait. And according to Real Simple, express check-out lines won’t actually get you through much faster. Use self-checkout to avoid the temptation.
Product Pairing: Supermarkets often pair certain items together (like chips and dip or cereal and bananas) to boost sales. Consumers are especially prone to scoop up pairs when one item is on sale and the other is not.
Sample Stations: Not only do samples make sales, but the stations slow shoppers down, potentially increasing their number of purchases.
Welcoming Customers: First impressions count, and colorful flowers, produce and bread at store entrances create a fresh and earthy illusion. The smells from the floral department, bakery and deli also activate your pleasure center and salivary glands and put you in a good mood to spend money.
Deceptive Prices: Comparing prices is difficult when brands are different sizes and stores put the total price in big print. Look at per-unit prices to see the real value. Sometimes “10 for $10” isn’t actually the best deal.
Produce Color: Even the shade of fruit influences our product choices. According to Fast Company, bananas with Pantone color 12-0752 (“Butter-cup”) sell better than Pantone color 13-0858 (“Vibrant Yellow”).
Capitalizing on Green Intentions: With a growing awareness of organic benefits, more products are using the green label to increase sales. But “green” language may not mean what you think its means: “natural” does not mean “organic.”
Misting Produce: Supermarkets don’t spray produce to keep it clean but to create an illusion of freshness. The frequent mist actually makes produce rot faster and adds weight to the scale.