How supermarkets are making consumers spend more money without them realising it.

Sneaky Supermarket Tricks: How to Outsmart Consumer Manipulation

As the cost-of-living soars, supermarkets are employing subtle strategies to entice consumers into spending more money without them even realizing it. In Australia, where the impact of inflation and rising costs is keenly felt, these tactics can have a significant impact on families trying to make ends meet.

Professor Nitika Garg, from the School of Marketing at UNSW Business School, sheds light on some key supermarket ploys to watch out for and offers tips on how to overcome them.

Supermarket consumer ploys to steer clear of :

  1. Locked-in Deals: Supermarkets often advertise items with bright red labels, creating a sense of urgency with a capped price until a specific date. However, Professor Garg warns that these deals may not offer true cost-effectiveness, as the price is often the same as the original item cost.
  2. Store Layout: Supermarkets intentionally design their layout to place essential items, such as milk and bread, far away from each other and at the back of the store. This forces consumers to navigate through the store, increasing the chances of making impulse purchases.
  3. Bigger-Sized Carts: Studies have shown that larger shopping carts lead to consumers buying 40% more items. Professor Garg explains that supermarkets aim to make shoppers feel like their cart is incomplete, encouraging them to add more items to fill it up.
  4. Music Selection: Supermarkets use calming, slow-paced music to create a relaxed atmosphere, prompting customers to stay longer and buy more products.
  5. Misleading Store Deals: Professor Garg highlights the ‘buy two, get one free’ promotions, which may seem attractive, but consumers should consider whether they will use all the items before their expiry dates. Additionally, some “deals” may disguise the fact that the price of one item is the same as half of the price of two.

To combat these tactics and cope with the current economic climate:

  • Shop at Different Stores: Given the cost-of-living crisis, consumers can be more price-conscious by shopping at multiple stores to get the best deals. This requires some time and research but can lead to significant savings.
  • Be Mindful of Loss Leaders: Supermarkets use loss leaders and attractive deals on certain items to lure shoppers in and encourage them to buy more. Professor Garg emphasizes the importance of recognizing these tactics and deciding whether it’s worth getting the deal or sticking to your planned purchases.
  • Stay Informed: By being aware of the psychological tricks supermarkets use, consumers can be more mindful of their shopping behaviour. Professor Garg advises avoiding impulsive purchases driven by emotions or enticing promotions.
  • Online Shopping Awareness: These tricks are not limited to in-store shopping; online shoppers should also be cautious of similar tactics used by online retailers.

“If you’re going in and you’re saying, oh, they’re selling bananas at $1.99 per kg, and Coles is selling it at $4.00 per kg, suddenly that’s a great deal. But the thing is, how many of us are going to get the bananas from one store and then get the other things from Coles?

“In summary, it’s best to be aware of the consumer psychology that supermarkets use to market their products. If consumers are more aware of these tactics, they can be more mindful of where they want to rely on these and where they want to be wary of such tactics. It’s also important to note that this is not just relevant to in-store supermarket shopping. Online shoppers should be wary of similar tactics too,” says Prof. Garg.

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