by Eric Santillan

We go to the groceries every week. It has become so integrated to our weekly routine that we no longer think about it. I don’t know with you, but even if I have a list, I sometimes find myself buying more than I planned. I end up making what others would call “impulse buys”. This post is not a justification of those impulse buys in the past, but grocery shops have tricks to make us buy more than we planned. I’ve listed down several of these tricks below. It’s good to be aware of what is being done to us so we can decide and act accordingly.

Decoy Effect. This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. When a product (lets call it Product A) is displayed on its own and sells for Php100.00, you will not notice it. But when a similar product (Product B) sells for Php150.00 and is placed beside A, all of a sudden, A becomes more desirable. Product B is really just there as decoy–to boost the sales of Product A.

Scent. You ever wondered why there’s a bakery and a grill (usually roasting chicken) near the entrance to a grocery store? It’s not just a coincidence. It’s placed there on purpose. Shoppers who smell fresh-baked bread, pastries and great-smelling food on their way into the store tend to feel hungrier (notice that you actually salivate sometimes! That’s the body’s natural reaction to the scent of food) while shopping, and tend to buy more.

Sound. The formula goes like this: music makes people happy — and happy people buy more stuff. According to Ad consultant Buyology, sounds impact our emotions and buying habits. Other stores use slow music to make you move slower. The more stops you make, the more items you will likely buy.
Tiny aisles. Supermarket aisles barely provide enough room for two carts to pass. That is not just to pack as many aisles as possible, it is also to make you go through the aisles slowly. And like slow music, the more stops you make, the more items you will see and buy.

Dairy and baby products in the back. The #1 item bought at most supermarkets are milk and diapers. That is the reason why they’re placed at the very back of the store, so you have to pass through other items on the way there. That’s how you end up buying soap and shampoo when all you planned buying on the way to the grocery store was milk.

Free samples. This is another old trick. Free samples also help slow you down, but there’s also psychology at work here–when someone gives you a gift, you want to reciprocate. You end up buying, not because you like the product per se, but because you want to give back.

Eye Level. The most expensive/premiere products in grocery stores are usually placed in such a way that they are easy to see and are level to our eyes. That is why product placement is very important and is a battleground for competing brands. But notice where the cereals are placed (and how colourful their packaging are). They’re strategically placed in the level of kids’ eyes. Because the kids are the ones who ask for them (with matching tantrum if you say no!).

Knowledge is half the battle won. So the next time you think about buying more than you planned, know that it’s been all been planned by marketing geniuses who want to make you part with an extra hundred pesos or more. You are being tricked into buying. Decide whether you’ll fall for it, or not!

About Eric Santillan

AngPeregrino is Eric Santillan. He is a management consultant for two firms specializing in sustainable business, competitiveness and risk management, cost control and culture management. During weekends, he does counselling for Clinica Salutare, an Integrative Health Clinic. He is also a writer for The Mindanao Current, a core group member of Heroic Leadership Philippines, and a retreat giver.

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