Supermarket ploys to make customer spend money
Posted by Julie Day

How many times have you walked into a supermarket with the intention of buying just one or two items and ended up leaving with a whole basket or trolley-full of shopping? I bet the answer is definitely more than once.

It takes a really strong-willed, focused and determined person not to fall under the supermarket’s 99% fail-proof marketing strategy of tempting customers to purchase more than they actually planned to.

Earlier this week, I went into Iceland, which I usually try and avoid at all costs, pretty determined to just get a box of tea bags, but I left with Twiglets, custard and toothpaste as well. Not too bad, though, I thought.

Supermarkets, and other types of shop too, for that matter, will try any marketing trick in the book to try and get the customer to spend more money than he actually wanted. And they are always coming up with new strategies all the time, so as soon as we think we’ve got our no-extra-purchases plan down to a fine art, it’s not long before we fall into their trap once again!

Here are several moves that supermarkets will try on you that you need to be aware of if you want to stick to your shopping list and your budget.

Shops designed to get lost in

This is exactly what happened to me the other week in Carrefour. I only wanted to buy a special brand of oat milk that you can’t get anywhere else, but it was located right at the back of the store. This meant that I had to pass through the whole of the supermarket to get to it, and it was really difficult not to stop off and wander when certain items caught my eye. And that’s what supermarkets do … they place every day popular items like milk or bread in really awkward locations so that you do literally have to navigate through a maze to find them. The logic behind this is the more time the customer spends in the store, the less chance he has of leaving with just a few items.

Promotion ‘gifts’

When it comes to supermarkets, you don’t get anything for free, despite the fact that you are conned into believing that you are! It might be a free spoon with a certain brand of cereal or a child’s toy free with a particular brand of biscuits. If you are attracted by the offer of a free gift and go for it, it’s probably safe to say that you have made an extra unplanned purchase and the supermarket’s marketing plan worked. What’s even worse is if there are a series of gifts to collect because then you have to continue to buy that product to get the full set.

Can I help you?

This is the one that really does my head in, although it depends greatly on what mood I’m in. No sooner do you set foot in a store when you’re being hounded and set upon by a pushy sales assistant who says they want to help, but really they want you to buy lots of items and leave with an empty purse.

It’s an obstacle course

If you think it’s a bit overcrowded around the till area and you don’t know where to focus your eyes first, that’s nothing. Circulating around a supermarket or store like Ikea, for example, is an exercise of heroes. There are so many different ploys to contend with including giant all-singing all-dancing promotional screens, end-of-aisle special offers, huge neon signs and smiling sales reps who just want you to try out their new brand of chorizo. If you can get through all of the above in less than five minutes, you deserve a gold medal.

Wafting sounds and aromas

Shopping is not just about seeing and touching. Well, it should be, but the supermarket marketing team will try and make shopping a five-sense wonderful experience so that you relax, slow down, take in everything around you and put most of it in your basket. The background music is soothing and calm and aromas of freshly baked bread and cakes fill the air inviting you to wander over and see what’s on offer.

Bigger trolleys and baskets

Have you noticed lately that the trolleys and baskets now available to deposit your purchases in are much bigger and aerodynamic than they used to be? This is another trick of the trade to get the customer to buy more. If the basket is small, he will want to get to the checkout as quickly as possible as soon as it is full, as carrying it about becomes uncomfortable.

Unnecessary extras

So, you want to buy a camera. And you choose the perfect one and take it off the shelf. You’re about to walk off and head towards the checkout, when you spy something out of the corner of your eye, next to where you’ve removed the camera. It’s a camera case, for an extra 15 euro. Oh, and what’s that next to the camera case? Batteries, for another 9 euro. The list could go on for the number of extra gadgets and accessories that you don’t really need, but which you might as well buy to go with your initial item if you have the money.

Happy shopping everyone, and happy spending!


  • shopping
  • commerce
  • marketing
  • supermarkets
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