Supermarket Marketing Ploys to Avoid

Have you ever left the grocery store with much more than you went in to buy?  If the answer is yes, then supermarket marketing ploys probably got the best of you.  Some of them are very sneaky and hard to avoid.  Others you may recognize but fall prey to them anyways.  Today we’re exploring some common supermarket marketing ploys and how to avoid them.

The name of the game for supermarkets is getting you to spend more than you intended.  It’s not that you are buying items that you won’t use.  After all, you need food and supplies to make your household operate.  But paying more for certain items than necessary, buying more than you need at one time or getting a few additional things you hadn’t supermarket marketing ploysintended are part of the marketing strategy for grocery stores.  This often includes getting you to spend more time in the store by having interesting and obstructive displays, often at the front of the store, and selling bonus items beyond the basics.

One of the most common supermarket marketing ploys is placing the most expensive items at eye level.  This trick is most apparent on the cereal aisle where boxes of similar products are lined up, probably for most of the aisle.  As you’ll notice, the top name brand cereals are at eye level and above and below you may find other brands of almost the exact same product or a store brand version of it.  Your eye is drawn to the name brand – i.e. most expensive – boxes however you can usually get something just as good in the lesser known brand boxes.

Supermarkets also try to appeal to your senses.  As you are trying to focus on what you need to buy, the store may smell of freshly baked bread or rotisserie chickens making your mouth water and crave these or similar products.  You may not notice that the music is periodically interrupted by advertisements – a not-so-subtle way of getting you to contemplate buying another product.  Also, you may come across a few sample tasting stations at your local market.  When you’ve tasted something and like it, you are more inclined to buy it.

Beware of sales or sale-like phrasing too.  Grocery store sales may be somewhat deceiving, such as buy five of an item and get a discount.  This encourages you to buy more than you may actually need.  Also, flashy tags that look like sale claims may just be a gimmick.  Read carefully to determine if products are really on sale or are just being touted as a good price in general.  Coupons may use the same devices so think carefully about what you need.

Grocery stores are increasingly offering more and more products or services that aren’t food and household supplies.  This tactic keeps you in the store longer and gives them yet another up-sell advantage.  Buying lawn chairs, toy trucks or picking up a prescription will keep you spending time and money in the store.

Another popular supermarket marketing ploy trend is selling health.  Products that are labeled as healthy or that target a particular health need – gluten-free, lots of fiber, or low fat – may cost more.  However, it doesn’t mean alterative products don’t fit the same bill.  Also, watch out for single-serving products like 100-calorie packs or pre-made meals.  These often cost a lot more when you could easily portion out these amounts for yourself.  Beware of buying bulk as well.  Check prices to make sure packages with more of an item actually are less per unit than a smaller package.

Bringing your kids to the store may also hurt your wallet.  Kids are notorious for falling for supermarket marketing ploys.  After the 10th time of your children asking for a stuffed animal or cool superhero cup they see at the store, you may just give in to save your sanity.  Grocery stores are counting on it…all the way to the bank.

To avoid supermarket marketing ploys, follow these tips:

  • Make a list and stick to it.  If you walk in and randomly shop, you’re likely to spend more.
  • Try to get everything you need in one trip so you’re not shopping multiple times a week.  The more you go in, the more you’ll probably buy.
  • Don’t go down aisles if it doesn’t have something you need.
  • Read signs, tags and coupons carefully so you don’t get duped.
  • Don’t go grocery shopping when you are hungry as you’ll be tempted by more items you don’t need.
  • Check the price per unit.  Bulk isn’t always cheaper.
  • Avoid bringing your kids if possible.

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