It’s no secret that certain marketing tricks exist to help separate you from more of your money. Most people know about strategic item placement, music to fit your shopping mood, and other tricks of the trade, but are you sharp enough to spot them all? Take a look at these 20 hidden marketing techniques designed to make you spend more, and be prepared next time you shop.
Everyone likes to save money. But what if you have to spend money today to save money tomorrow? Retailers are betting that you’ll get excited at the offer of money saved in the future, and spend more today. But the trick is that you’ll probably never actually come back to cash in on the benefit later. And even if you do, they’ve timed it perfectly so that a certain overpriced but very tempting item is on their shelves to greet you when you come back.
Smells can be enticing, make you change your mood, and even make you spend more money. Supermarkets are now using scent marketing to get you to buy more, some of them with specialized scent machines wafting the smell of fresh baked bread and other scents designed to make you part with extra cash. Some believe that the smells make customers hungrier, which will make them want to buy more. And it makes sense, as smell accounts for 75% of what we taste. One supermarket with a scent machine reports that sales in their produce department have gone up at least seven percent.
Why, oh why do stores make parents with small children trek all the way to the back of the store for necessities like baby wipes and toilet paper? Because they’re hoping you and your kids will find plenty of irresistible items to pick up on your way. To get to the “one thing” you went into the store for, you’ll have to pass several signs about new items, sales, and one-day only specials. If you don’t stop to find out what’s there, you might miss out, and that’s what they’re counting on.
This trick is prevalent in restaurants, where they want you to forget about the price and just enjoy your food — ideally, the most expensive thing on the menu. By dropping the dollar sign on menus, minimalist prices, such as 6 instead of $6, restaurants are hoping you’ll pay less attention to the price than the description of the food. In 2009, Cornell University put this train of thought to the test, and discovered that upscale diners did in fact spend less when the dollar symbol “$” or the word “dollars” appeared with prices on the menu.
Most of the time, an item on sale “10 for $10” is really just on sale for $1 each. But by advertising the item with that specified quantity, stores are betting that you’ll pick up not just one, but ten. Whether or not the sale’s rules specify the necessary quantity many people end up buying the number of items advertised even if they don’t need them all.
We all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but somehow we often forget when it comes to retailers. Almost invariably, a free offer comes with a serious burden, such as free shipping after you spend $100, or a free child’s lunch with two adult purchases. Freebies can come in handy if you’re in the right situation, but they can also sway you to take a deal that might not be as good as one without an enticing free offer.
Scarcity makes shoppers want to snatch up whatever they’re buying, and get as much as they can so that they are sure to beat out everyone else after the same thing. You often see this pricing at the supermarket, with special items that have, for example, a limit of 3 per customer. This can lead to making you buy something you may not actually need, or just buying more than was actually necessary.
When you look at a price and see $9.99, chances are your brain doesn’t automatically register $10, but that figure is closer to the truth. Typically, consumers will think of prices ending in 9 as a much lower price, and end up spending more money. In addition to the change in perception, making prices end in 9 makes calculating confusing. So for someone trying to see the difference between two smaller bags of an item at $1.99 versus a larger one at $4.99, it may be tricky to figure out exactly what the total cost would be for each.
Just as retailers often place important items in the back of stores, they also put key items in the middle of aisles. Some customers “boomerang” through aisles, walking down to grab what they want and turning back the way they came instead of continuing to walk down the same aisle. Stores maximize the time (and items passed) in aisles by placing what they think you’re most likely to buy in the middle, hoping you’ll pick up interesting items on your way down or back up.
Wait, coupons are supposed to save you money, right? Correct, but deal seekers often end up spending more than those that casually shop. First, coupons direct shoppers to the items retailers most want them to spend money on — and those items may not be bargains, even with coupons. Retailers report that coupons often make for bigger online orders. Additionally, online coupons offer retailers a great way to track marketing and retain customers with follow up marketing, keeping them coming back for more and more “great deals.”
The color of a store or restaurant can impact how you shop, and even how fast you eat. Bruce Sanders, a consumer psychologist and retailing consultant, shares, “At McDonald’s, red causes you to eat more quickly, creating space for the next customer.” Target’s red color helps shoppers fill their carts quickly. But blue stores hope you’ll stick around, spending plenty of time in the store and picking up plenty of items along the way.
Nearly everyone likes exceptional service, and it’s hard to imagine that there’s a drawback to being treated nicely while you shop. But AMEX has studied great service and found that when offered excellent customer service, you’re likely to spend more — 13% more, in fact.
When restaurants or stores accept cash only, shoppers are limited by what they have on hand. But when credit cards are available as an option, often the sky is the limit. Shoppers can spend more than they planned, simply because it is available. Several studies, including one by Visa, indicated that shoppers will in fact spend more when they can pay by credit, with the average spending per customer coming in at 30% higher when paying with a credit card.
Free food samples! Oh how nice! Not really. Stores hand out samples during busy shopping days to spark the appetite of shoppers and attract them to the items they really want to move. You may not have been hungry walking into the store, but after having just one bite of sushi, followed by the tiniest fajita in the world, you might find yourself wanting more. And of course, the item that you’re offered and most likely want more of probably has a high profit margin for the store, even with a coupon.
When deals are only available for a short period of time, it’s natural to want to snatch up the steal before it’s gone. At the same time, consumers often feel like they’ve stumbled upon something special, and they’re worried they’ll miss out on the sale. Combined with confusing discounts, like buy one, get the second 60% off, and you’ve got shoppers that are ravenous to get the great deal, even if they don’t know exactly what that deal is.
If you see your favorite product boasting a new look or change in the design of its container, beware. This fresh change may not be a simple redesign, but in fact, a downsizing of the packaging. With a new design and smaller volume, you’ll often pay the same price for less product.
You’ve seen the signs and have almost certainly been asked to sign up for one at the register — store cards exist to make sure you’ll spend lots of money right where retailers want you to. They often have high interest rates, but that’s not the worst part. With a discount as an incentive, shoppers with new store cards often overspend on their initial transaction, buying extra in order to maximize their sign-up discount.
Retailers, particularly grocery stores, want you to easily see the items they most want you to buy. They place these items at eye level so that they will be noticed more easily than the less-desirable items placed higher or lower. See if you can find items with a better price by remembering to look beyond middle height. Also keep in mind that stores will often cater to a kid’s eye level as well, placing food and other items that are exciting to children, hoping they’ll pick them up and ask their parents to buy them.
A sale isn’t really a great deal if it was overpriced to begin with. Stores regularly mark down overpriced items to a more reality-based, fair price, but consumers are more likely to buy it because it’s on sale. But despite this fact, retailers are betting that you’ll see an item on sale as a great deal for the simple fact that it’s discounted — not that its price is exceptional. Consumers are far more likely to buy an item on sale.
Complete packages are certainly convenient but they come at a price. Furniture stores in particular are masters at doing this, designing an entire living room to look so great. Even though you may have just wanted a chair, the room works so well together you just might end up with a whole room. This idea is at work in so many places: clothing stores with mannequins in full outfits, and even meal deals at grocery stores that combine all of the items you’ll need for a night’s meal.
This article was first posted in Insurance Quotes.