Review of Supermarket Science

Supermarket science-Stores use many strategies to sell you their products
October 13, 2010      By William Hageman, Tribune Newspapers
 

MY COMMENTS AND SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE  Supermarket Science

According to Paco Underhill, founder and CEO of Envirosell, nothing in the store is by accident. Everything is by design.

“There’s a reason why produce and often the bakery are the first sections you see. First, the produce section tends to be well lit – so that everything looks better in the store than it ever will when you get it home. The smell or view of fresh bakery may also help to get your saliva glands working. There’s a method to their grocery store layout.

Make a list and stick to it to avoid snap decisions and get familiar with the store so you only visit aisles that will address your grocery list. According to the Food marketing Institute and the Point-of-Purchase Advertising Institute, about 60% of what we buy at the supermarket wasn’t on our list.

If you have kids, shop when the kids are in school; they slow you down or distract you from efficiently completing this task.

Shop at off-peak hours. The busier the store, the more time you spend in the store and the more items you will purchase. Often, I’m in a hardware or grocery store at 7 or 8 Pm on a cold, snowy evening. Needless to say, when I can find an associate, I can receive pretty good service.

Most shoppers realize it’s never a good idea to shop hungry or tired. Shopping tired or hungry can ultimately become an expensive proposition.

Some research suggests some consumers respond to ‘On special,’ even if the price hasn’t gone down. The mere presence of that sign will clue them into the fact they could save money. Some consumers perceive they are getting a good deal because of the sign.

Get through the checkout area as quickly as possible to avoid the tempting items there. In other words, consider shopping at stores that open up more checkout lines when they get busy. They realize your time is important too.

Items in the dairy case have the highest conversion rate so there are few people who go to the milk or yogurt section who don’t buy. Just know that if you’re going in just for a gallon of milk you leave with some impulse items you may not need.

The more time you spend in a store, which increases the chance you’ll purchase more items. So remember that if you’re forced to wait 20 minutes in your store for your prescription to be ready.

If you’re looking for a better deal, choose house brands or larger sizes — usually better deals — are displayed higher or lower.

Another factor in getting people to buy something is signage. Again, it’s a science. Science says hand-lettered signs grab people. Also use red and yellow signs signal sales. Establishing limits on sale items help to create a greater buzz than no limits at all. For example, if you want to sell more corn, put up a sign that says ‘Limit 4 cans per customer.’ You’ll sell more corn than without any limits.

Dominick's Grocery Image from Ryancompanies.com

Supermarket science-Stores use many strategies to sell you their products

October 13, 2010|By William Hageman, Tribune Newspapers

The next time you come across a real supermarket find — stacked crates of fabric softener with a hand-lettered “Clearance Sale” sign taped to the front — don’t feel so smug. You’re being played.

Despite its appearance — the slightly amateurish-looking sign, its location sort of blocking an aisle — that display wasn’t hurriedly set up by some overworked stock boy. It is part of a plan.

“Nothing in the store is by accident. Everything is by design,” said Paco Underhill, founder and CEO of Envirosell, a retail-focused research and consulting firm in New York.
Underhill is a pioneer in the field. His 2000 book “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping” was groundbreaking, and his new book, “What Women Want: The Global Market Turns Female Friendly,” also touches on the subject.

As the title of his first book implies, this is a science. Think about your favorite supermarket. It’s probably laid out like this:

When you walk in, there will be a display to greet you, maybe something from the floral shop (see 1 on the illustration). Off to the right is the produce department 2. Along the wall, the bakery 3. Way in the back is dairy 4. Sound familiar?

That most stores follow this general layout isn’t just coincidence.

“There’s a reason why produce and often the bakery are the first sections you hit,” Underhill explained. “First of all, the produce section tends to be lit theatrically, so that everything looks better in the store than it ever will when you get it home. Almost every supermarket knows that if they can get your saliva glands working, you will tend to buy more. So there’s a reason why the bakery is up front, or the flowers are up front.”

The dairy case is usually way in the back as a way to pull the shopper as deeply into the store as possible.

“The dairy section has both the highest number of … shoppers and historically has the highest conversion rate,” Underhill said. “There are very few people that go look at milk and not buy it.”

So on your way to getting the milk, you walk through the middle of the store 5 — historically where the tougher-to-sell items are displayed — past jumbo olives and potato chips that you had no intention of buying. But seeing them on the shelves …

“One of the things that the Food Marketing Institute and the Point-of-Purchase Advertising Institute have told us is that roughly 60 percent or more of what we buy in the supermarket wasn’t on our list,” Underhill said. “If I stop somebody on their way into a store and have them review for me what their mental list or written list is, and then I look in their basket as they walk out the door, roughly 60 percent of what’s in that basket they didn’t tell me about walking in.”

The key to that is getting shoppers to stick around. That’s one of the reasons stores have pharmacies (“Your prescription will be ready in 20 minutes”) or chatty employees handing out samples.

“The more time they spend in a store on average, the more things they’re going to buy,” said David Bell, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “They’re going to be stimulated by promotions and things in the environment.”

Another well-established strategy is to get shoppers to follow a path that’s decided for them.
“Certainly a retailer tries to direct you through a store in a way that’s more advantageous to generating more sales,” Bell said.

One of Underhill’s precepts is that shoppers tend to move in a counterclockwise motion 6. “You push the cart with your left hand, you pick stuff up to put in it with your right hand,” he said.

So if you’re going to be drifting to the right after you enter, the most attractive, welcoming section of the store — that colorful, well-lit produce section — is right there.
Once a shopper is headed in the preferred direction, the next goal is to get items off the shelf and into the cart. That’s where the placement of a product comes in. Manufacturers pay slotting fees to get a premium location for their products. That is, at eye level 7. Bargain items, house brands or larger sizes — usually better deals — are displayed higher or lower.

“What’s at waist- to eye-level are those brands that have paid for the right to be there,” Underhill said. “There’s more effort to look up, to look up and down, to scan,” Bell added. “When things are placed at eye level, two things happen. It’s just easier to see them and these decisions are made rather quickly, and secondly, there might be an inference on the part of the shopper, rightly or wrongly, that the product at eye level is the better product.”

Another factor in getting people to buy something is signage. Again, it’s a science. Hand-lettered signs grab people. Red and yellow signs signal sales 8. Bell mentioned anchoring, whereby people latch onto information even if it’s irrelevant. “If you want to sell more soup, you put up a sign that says ‘Limit 4 cans per customer.’ You’ll sell more soup than if there’s no sign at all.

“There’s research that says that if people see a sign in front of a product that says ‘On special,’ even if the price hasn’t gone down, just the presence of that sign will cue them. ‘I must be getting a good deal, let me buy some of this.'”

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Kevin Schwarm

I have over 25 years of professional experience in business, information technology (IT), and customer service. Industry experience in retail, medical insurance, higher education, non-profit, financial services, and property and casualty insurance. Customer focused professional interested in providing value (save time, money and aggravation) by evaluating and analyzing information, services and products with a unique perspective.

7 Responses

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