Marketing Tricks that Make You Spend More at the Grocery Store

It’s no secret that companies spend billions of dollars researching exactly what makes us humans tick, and how to play to our wants, needs, instincts, and weaknesses so we spend more. This is especially true in the grocery store industry, where the average supermarket makes just 2% in profits in spite of the fact that Americans spend a jaw-dropping $500 billion annually on stocking their pantries and fridges. With so little extra money floating around, there’s a lot of competition for your dollars.

From Kroger’s heat sensors that detect where in the store people are (so clerks know when to head up front to help people check out), to narrower check-out aisles that don’t allow you to bail on as many products, to shopping carts the size of Volkswagen Beetles, the marketing methods have become so sly that it’s hard to even notice them!

Resist the Marketing Madness

When it comes to getting your staples, it’s good to keep your wits about you and pay attention to the marketing tactics being utilized in the space around you so you can save as many dollars as possible while still getting the things you need.


Like most retailers, many grocery stores opt to appeal to your senses starting the minute you walk into their store, and this is never truer than with their use of color. The Logo Company provides a brief, basic guide on the psychology of color in advertising, giving a breakdown of how people tend to respond to each individual hue. Though a certain amount of your reaction to colors depends on personal experience, marketers are excellent in gauging what colors will be most effective in displays and packaging, and which ones will make you want to buy their product. That, experts say, is why the fruit and produce are usually located near the front of the store – to cheer up your subconscious and gear you up for spending more.

Irresistible Sales

Many Milwaukee grocery stores employ a strategy called the loss leader, where they price a popular product below its market value to draw customers in like Milwaukee title loans. The idea is for this discount to get buyers into the store and “lead” them to buy other items that aren’t discounted. For example, the supermarket might advertise super low prices on staples like fruit, milk, or ground beef, banking on the fact that once you’re inside the store you’ll pick up other items that weren’t originally on your list (cookies, lighters, a Harlequin romance novel), thanks to the subtle marketing tactics at play within the store’s walls.

Store Layouts

Like shopping mall designs, the layout of grocery stores are meant to be disorienting and lead you past as many items as possible, a phenomenon called the Gruen Transfer. In grocery stores especially, necessities like milk and bread are not usually located close to the front of the store. Their distant positions in relation to the entrance require you to walk through aisles of other skillfully packaged and marketed merchandise.

Fancy Trappings

Does a grocery store really need a Starbucks franchise inside the store? In a word: yes.

Grocery stores have been stepping up their game and remodeling their layouts to fit more of a “lifestyle” format, with organic food selections, attractive walls, flooring, and displays, as well as in-house butchers, bakeries, pharmacies, and large selections of prepared meals like sushi and chicken wings. All of it is designed to encourage you to indulge in instant gratification and whet your appetite for spending money. Some stores have even begun to employ dieticians to draw more customers away from competitors like Wal-Mart, CVS, and Walgreens.

Bigger Carts

Every decade, it seems like they get a little bit bigger – shopping carts, that is. It’s no coincidence that shopping carts are increasing in size. The more room you have to use up, the more liable you are to pile it full of things you may or may not need.

Tuning in to Your Music Preferences

Imagine a trip to the grocery store without music; silently wandering the aisles amongst all the other exhausted shoppers – creepy, right? Well, Virtual Insanity is no longer just a favorite 90’s jam on many a grocery store playlist, but it also aptly describes the current state of how marketers are targeting you where you shop. Stores have become so attuned to how customers interact with their environments that they use everything – even the music – to manipulate your senses to make you spend more.

Research shows that music tends to up the amount that impulse buyers spend. Additionally, slower songs you know well typically inspire you to pick up more purchases than fast, loud, up-tempo music, which moves buyers through stores more quickly. In supermarkets, playlists often consist of songs with tempos even slower than the average human heart rate, which subconsciously encourages you to linger longer.

Keeping It Together During Your Next Shopping Trip

Though there are a lot of factors at play once you step through the doors of a supermarket, taking simple measures to keep more money in your wallet can go a long way. Marketers play to our most primal instincts, so it’s hard to keep your guard up at all times. However, as long as you employ the tried and true methods of eating before you shop, entering with a list, and paying attention to your surroundings, it should be pretty easy to make it through your future food shopping trips without breaking the bank.

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