How supermarkets manipulate customers – part II

What are differences in buying patterns between men and women? How can structure and product placing in stores
make us buy more? And what happens when customers notice that they are influenced? Finally, here are the answers to the questions asked in part I of my blog post: “How supermarkets manipulate customers”.

At first, please read the wonderful German Spiegel-article “Weltreligion Shopping”, that AngieThiem recommended and watch the great documentation “Die Erforschung der Manipulation – Angriff auf die Sinne”, which Stephanie Krogmann posted in her comment on part I:

It is very important for stores that women get rid of their male company already at the entrance. Men have an obstructive effect on buying patterns; at least in shopping malls and food shops. But in building supplies stores and electronic stores the effect on buying patterns is beneficial. If a woman buys something in female company it takes on average twice as long as in male company.

Men have a much more simple purchase behavior. Two third of men buy the jeans they tried on in the changing cubicle but only one quarter of women do that.

Details in the structure of a store can be decisive for the buying behavior of customers. The entrances are almost always on the right side of the stores front, because humans like to move in counter-clockwise direction. The ways are blocked with display stands to make the customers look at the presented goods and to slow-down the speed. This method is called “Blocking”.

Slowing-down is the most important way to animate customers to buy something. Directly after the entrance door e.g. the customer is animated to stop for a moment because the first goods do not appear until the costumer made five steps. The underground is recalcitrant and rough-running so that the consumer is forced to move very slowly. In some stores the fitted carpet is fluffier at places with goods the store owner wants to sell the most to slow-down the shopping cart. In the first third of a shelf, there is a range of many different products so that the buyer is forced to go slower to watch all the products. After that third of the shelf, almost every customer comes to a standstill. That is why the goods the store owner wants to sell the most are placed on that position.

High piles, large packs and colorful signs indicate that a product is low-price or a special offer even though that is not always true. Signs with the inscription “only today: cut-price offer” or “sale” suggest that the good could be sold out soon and the product lands in the shopping cart. This shopping cart is by the way very big and a small purchase looks somehow lost in it, so consumers are animated to fill it up, thereby buying more. And the best way to do that for the store owner is to fill it up with expensive products that can be find at eye level and right in the grabbing zone (most of the people are right-handed). So-called fast-moving-items, which customers buy often, like milk and DVDs, as well as cheaper products can be found in the bending down zone.

Thanks again to Steffi from everythingaroundit, who commented part I and wrote the following: “Did you know that things we need anyway like toothpaste are storaged higher in the shelves than things we do not need, as we stretch out anyway.” This is the so-called stretching zone, that can often be found in discounter markets.

The person that stretches to reach the certain product is forced to look on other (expensive) products e.g. electric toothbrushes (to stick to the toothpaste-example. :)). Cheaper models are generally placed at the front side of the shelves so that the customer cannot compare prices directly.

Combined placing is also very popular. Expensive headphones are e.g. placed next to MP3-Players and expensive tomato-sauce can be found next to spaghetti. Comparable, cheaper products often lay just a few meters away but until consumers find them they already forgot the other price.

If products belonging to the same category are placed next to each other or below each other which makes a comparison possible, marketing-experts did this deliberately.  Next to the cheap and the expensive product, an extremely expensive product is placed. Humans tend to choose the middle when doing a purchase decision, even though the cheaper product could also serve its purpose.

But humans are not as easy to manipulate as marketing-researcher might wish. Persons, who notice that they are influenced, leave the store, without buying many goods. And who is hold up by too many harassments, begins to get angry about the waste of time. You want to save money at the supermarket? Read this article that SparklinGesine recommended. On average 15 000 single objects can be found in German households. Buying less should be possible.

As a summary, please check out this interactive graphic art by Süddeutsche Zeitung.

(All facts mentioned in the text are taken from Thomas Jüngling’s German article “Wie Supermärkte ihre Kunden manipulieren” written for WeltOnline.)


About NerdyLaura

Born and raised in Berlin, Germany. 20-year-old girl. Studying "International Business Management" at Berlin School of Economics and Law although my Time-Management is really bad ;). Hates: Rainy days and people who are driving 30 km/h when 50 km/h are allowed. Loves: Kitschy staff, jewellery, gardening (green fingers) and movies (good and bad ones). View all posts by NerdyLaura

2 responses to “How supermarkets manipulate customers – part II

  • Sophie

    Hey Laura! :)

    Thank you for posting a second part of your grocery marketing post! Like last time, I really enjoyed that you were trying to uncover the strategies of shops, which want us to buy more expensive goods!

    And thinking about your description, it really is true that every supermarket is organised in the same way.

    One exception might be our favourite store T K Maxx:

    Beautiful, isn’t it?? ^^°



  • Franzi

    hey laura!
    very interesting topic. i really like that you included comments or recommendations from your last post!
    actually i already heard a lot about that topic, nevertheless it surprised me that “The underground is recalcitrant and rough-running so that the consumer is forced to move very slowly”… how creative people are, if they want to sell stuff! :O
    so it was absolutely worth reading your last two posts!

    by the way: concerning women and men shopping behaviour i just found that video (maybe you already know it, but it’s the truth, isn’t it? :D )

    see you later alligator! ;)

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