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The retail industry spends hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, collectively, to come up with various ways to manipulate consumers into purchasing their wares. While some of these tactics are well-known, many are not. From the Not so freshly baked goods, manipulative placement tactics meant to drive up impulse purchases and unique ways of hiding shrinking product sizes so that the consumer will never notice, we've got them all! Freshly Baked Goods- or Are they? - while those rows of goodies may look enticing, did you know that the majority of stores actually receive frozen goods and only need to thaw them or bake them. The “fresh” rolls you may have thought were just mixed up could be from dough prepared in a factory several weeks or months prior.
These displays serve another purpose as well- they work to stimulate the appetite of the consumer, increasing impulse purchases.
Manipulative Placement- Any parent knows that the worst aaisle in the grocery store is the cereal aaisle. The sugary smackle puffs with cute little cartoon characters is always at eye level for Junior to see, and of course, it comes with the latest greatest made in china toy, which will surely be the one you step on at 3 am when you get up to answer natures untimely call. It’s a well known consumer manipulation tactic to place items that are marketed towards kids on the bottom shelves, where they are more likely to see the item (and beg their parents to purchase them).
A lesser known manipulation tactic is for merchandisers to place the more expensive non-staple items at eye level. By non-staple, we mean items that you don’t necessarily need, but that you may be swindled into buying because the packaging is attractive and you’re hungry while your shopping (another grocery budget no-no).
End Caps - Ever notice those lovely displays at the end of each aaisle offering up "sales" on goodies? These are generally items that aren't really on sale, they're just dressed up to appear as though they are.
Impulse Buys- There are several ways that we, as consumers, are manipulated into purchasing items on impulse. a. Shopping While Hungry- if you’re already hungry when you shop, nearly anything will look tasty.
b. Clever Arrangement/Placement
Cheap Fillers - Lets delve a little deeper into the subject of those convenience items. Manufacturers often use sugar as a filler to their products simply because it’s cheap. We’ve been taught, as consumers, that we should read the ingredients label to see where sugar ranks in the product, but the manufacturers have learned to disguise the high levels of filler by using different types (corn syrup, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, molasses).
When Buying in Bulk might be Bad- taking advantage of membership clubs such as Sam’s , BJ’s or Costco can be helpful in securing great deals in your budget. There are times when a “good buy” may turn out to be a considerably less savings than you had anticipated. Perhaps your favorite shampoo is available in bulk for $30, when the small bottle at your local store is $6.50. You may have discovered that when you’re using that bottle of shampoo – you’re pouring twice as much as you need from that gigantic bottle. After all, your mind is telling you that there is plenty of shampoo available. Or perhaps you bought a giant bottle of mayonnaise because it was less expensive than the smaller bottles available at your local grocery store. Now that it’s open and sitting in the back of your fridge, you’re trying to figure out ways to use it all up before it spoils. Items like these are not helping your budget; they’re what I like to consider fruitless purchases.
Inconvenient "Convenience" Foods- Convenience foods are the items that, back in the day, folks made at home in their own kitchens. Items such as cookies, cakes, brownies, sauces, gravies, and soups. The other day, while picking up a few items at the store, I was overwhelmed by the number of cake and cookie mixes in the baking aaisle.
The store no longer offered basic ingredients (in this case semolina flour for making pasta!), but they did have 26 different kinds of cake mix. In the refrigerated section, there were rows and rows of premade cookie dough for $2.50 a tube.
The amount in the “tube” of dough equates to less than half a batch of regular cookie dough! Consumers have been manipulated by marketing companies for decades to believe that we have less and less time and “need” these products, which are often loaded with colorings, preservatives and lack any nutritional quality.
The next time you find yourself in the grocery store, I challenge you to take a peek into the carts of folks that walk by. The majority of items within the cart is convenience items that people have been manipulated into purchasing under the false pretense that they “save time” or are easier than preparing real food at home.
Mammoth Sized Grocery Carts- Grocery store carts are getting bigger and bigger and the aaisles are getting wider. No, this isn’t your imagination, it’s a fact. When shopping with a large cart and you only have a few items, you’re manipulated into feeling like you don’t have enough groceries yet, so you continue shopping. If you’re running into the store for a single item, such as a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk, forgo the cart or hand basket. It will force you to only purchase as much as you can carry and help avoid those impulse buys that make up more than 70% of our overspending each year
Limited Quantity/Availability Trick- This one has been perfected by those late night tv shopping networks, but has spilled over into the grocery industry as well. Oftentimes in sales flyers, the manufacturer will add a limit to the number of items a consumer is "allowed" to purchase at the "sale" price. Were you thinking perhaps they did this to be fair to all consumers to give them a chance to get in on the deal? Absolutely Not, this is simply a psychological direct marketing tactic.