Secrets of the supermarkets revealed

This article originally appeared on the Telegraph, April 17, 2014

Consumer organisation Which? identifies tactics used by supermarkets to persuade shoppers to spend more

The consumer watchdog Which? used eye-tracking technology to investigate the impact of marketing tools used by the big four supermarkets, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, and Sainsbury’s

The consumer watchdog Which? used eye-tracking technology to investigate the impact of marketing tools used by the big four supermarkets, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, and Sainsbury’s Photo: ALAMY

Supermarkets are using mind games on unsuspecting shoppers, to coax them into spending more money, a report has found

The consumer watchdog Which? used eye-tracking technology to investigate the impact of marketing tools used by the big four supermarkets, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, and Sainsbury’s.

By monitoring how their shoppers were influenced by the store’s layout and placement of items, Which? discovered that each supermarket used psychological tricks to make shoppers buy unplanned additional items.

Each shopper was given a shopping list, and knew what they were in the store to buy. Yet, they each bought more than planned, and faced a higher bill than expected.

Which? discovered that strategic placing of items, such as beer next to nappies, is used to grab the attention of fathers shopping for the weekend.

Other tricks include putting essential goods like bread, milk, butter and sugar, deep in the store, in order for the unsuspecting shopper to walk past an array of tempting goods to reach them.

They also found that fresh fruit and vegetables are placed at the front of stores to create the impression of fresh air for shoppers.

Another trick, used by Morrisons, is to place bacon and cakes near the bread and soup, which influenced the shoppers to buy more items than they had on their lists.

Besides placement of items, the study also found that by placing red stickers on products, customers automatically assume that they are discounted, regardless of whether they are reduced.

Which? said: “It’s no secret that a quick stop for a loaf of bread can often end with a basket that doesn’t quite meet the requirements of the [ten items] lane.”

The experiment also discovered that consumers read supermarket shelves like a book, running their eye from left to right and then downwards. The report accusses the supermarkets of abusing this by laying out price increases in small steps from left to right, which means the consumer is not wholly aware of the significant price difference between the cheapest good and the most expensive.

Supermarkets are also accused in the report of burying their own brand lines on the bottom shelves.

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