11 Tricks Supermarkets Use to Maximize Profits — Behind the Scenes of Shopping Psychology

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When it comes to food shopping, supermarkets have it down to a science.

In fact, the cookie-cutter layout and particular product placement is backed by behavioral psychologists, paid to develop ways to separate customers from their cash. So the next time you’re heading to the supermarket to pick up food for the week, pay close attention to these tricks that are specifically designed to manipulate your spending habits.

1. Fruits and Vegetables up Front 

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If a first impression is everything, then putting the freshest foods near the front makes sense. Many supermarkets have fruits, vegetables and flowers right near the entrance to set a healthy, vibrant tone. Of course, a few feet away you’ll probably find the bakery and its sugar-laden pastries, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

2. Only One Way Out

Time is money, and in some cases, supermarkets are designed to keep you inside just a little longer. Some stores feature one-way entrance and exit doors so that you have to take the time to walk around before you leave. That extra time could result in a last-minute purchase that you did not intend on making.

3. Sticking Essentials in Random Places 

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Wouldn’t it be easy to find all your essentials in one aisle? Well, there’s a reason bread, milk and eggs are spread throughout your supermarket. By forcing you to travel up and down aisles to find your kitchen staples, you stand a greater chance of stumbling upon other non-essential items that could end up in your shopping cart.

4. Bring on the Free Samples

The best things in life are free – and nothing is better than free food. Supermarkets often set up kiosks with free samples, and it’s not without a purpose. Not only will you spend more time in the store but you also may fall in love with a new product that you will end up buying.

5. Placing Cheap Items on Lower Shelves 

Perception is everything, so it makes sense that stores place certain items right in our line of sight. Supermarkets smartly place brand name items at our eyeline so it captures our attention immediately. If you look a little lower, you’ll often find the cheaper option tucked away.

6. Keep the Kids Items on Their Level

By the same token, children’s items are often placed on lower levels – right in front of their eyeline. That can lead to some intense negotiations over magazines, candy or toys with your little one.

7. Slow Music for More Spending

The grocery store playlist often sounds a lot like elevator music. Supermarkets play slower music to set the tone for a relaxed (and longer) shopping experience. The longer you’re walking up and down the aisles, the more prone you are to throwing in an extra chocolate bar or bottle of wine to keep the relaxation flowing.

8. Supersize Your Cart

Ever wondered how you could manage to cram $300 worth of groceries in a single shopping cart? Well, like my waistline after the holidays, shopping carts keep growing. The size and holding capacity of shopping carts have increased over time, leaving us with a significant space to fill up.

9. No Time Limit

It is really easy to lose track of time when you don’t have a way to keep track of it. The next time you visit your local supermarket, try and find a clock hanging up within eyesight.

10. Leave Special Items for the End

Nothing is better than BOGO. I mean, who doesn’t want an extra pack of Oreos for free? If you’re ever searching for promotional items, check the end of a shelf. As you’re passing by, it’s easy to fall victim to a good deal.

11. Promote Deals You Really Don’t Need

Nobody really needs three bottles of orange juice. But smart marketing by supermarkets can lead you to stock up on multi-buy offers that are luxuries.

What do you think about these tricks? Think they’re tricky or did you know these already?

Let us know in the comments!