Strategic Supermarket Tactics That Make You Spend More

1. Strategic Pricing

Consumers are more likely to buy products that end in a nine rather than products that are priced to end with a zero.  For example, of the two prices $2.99 versus $3.00, consumers are more likely to purchase the former, $2.99 product. 

You might be thinking that picking the $2.99 product is an obvious choice as it’s the cheaper one, however studies have shown that this behaviour sticks, even if the product with a pricing that ends in a nine is the more expensive one. 

For instance, in one experiment participants were asked to consider two pens, one priced at $2.00 and the other at $4.00. Obviously the $2.00 pen was more favourable. However, when the pricing was manipulated so that the pens now cost $2.00 and $3.99 respectively, it was found that 44% of participants then favoured the more expensive pen that was priced to end in a nine. Much research has been done into this phenomenon, so much so that it’s called the left-digit effect.

The left-digit effect means that there is a psychological bias in consumers when they are comparing products with multi-digit pricing.

2. Clever Wording

Similar to strategic pricing is strategic wording. We see it every time we go to a supermarket, either in person or online. For instance, words such as ‘specials ’ set off a psychological process in our brain. Why? Because the word ‘Special’ not only represents when an item is on sale or has a deal, but in literal terms the word special gives an item the property of being better or having greater worth than what isn’t special. Not only that, but this type of wording also buys into the phenomena often referred to as the scarcity effect.  

The scarcity effect in this case being, that if it’s a good/valued product it won’t be on the shelves for long. The impact of the scarcity effect we can see by simply looking at how COVID-19 spurred on panic buying. Panic buying was led by the thought that if you don’t go buy food now, then someone else will and by the time you do there won’t be anything left – and so forth. 

3. Smart Colour Choices

Along the same lines of pricing and wording is colour. And at supermarkets, colour is everything. You’ll notice that as soon as you walk into a supermarket you immediately see fresh fruit and vegetables stacked high and displaying all their freshness and, yes, colours.

Colour does not stop there however. Of all the colours, red is the most visual and eye catching to consumers. Which is why it comes to no surprise that red is the colour adopted by most supermarkets as their specials and deals colour. 

Take Coles and Woolworths for example. Coles highlights their specials by putting the call-out within a red ring (see below). And Woolworths similarly uses red, however it does so with its ‘Low Price Always’ label (see below).

4. Essential Items

Have you ever noticed how essential items such as milk or bakery goods are towards the back of a grocery store? Well, it’s not by accident. Having essential items towards the back of a store means consumers have to walk through the store, past other products, in order to get to the items they want to buy– which is exactly what retailers want. 

This is because having consumers walk through other parts of the store, before they get to the item they want, increases the chances that another product will catch their attention along the way. Ultimately leading to more items purchased and therefore, more spend and money in retailer pockets. 

This is why going grocery shopping with a shopping list is integral to shopping on a budget.

5. Product Shelving Placement

Similar to having essential items placed towards the back of the store, is how items are stacked on shelves. Items that sit at the average eye level are there for a reason. No they aren’t better value for the consumer, but rather they are for retailers.

This is because the products that are usually stacked at eye level are ones with a larger profit margin and having them at eye level means it’s the first item people will see and most likely purchase. However, if you look above or below these items you’ll most likely find other similar ones that are of better value to you.