I first started this article in hopes to help others map out a successful trip to the grocery store. However as I began searching for layout diagrams of grocery stores I came across some very interesting articles regarding the psychology and research behind grocery store layouts. As I read through these articles I couldn’t help but think that I was reading the reasoning behind the layout of a casino. With that said if you’re not properly prepared before you step into the store you may end up spending more than you initially intended.
I’m sure we’ve all been there. We run into the grocery store to purchase one item and before we know it we’re walking out with an entire shopping cart full of groceries. Believe it or not grocery stores are actually large businesses designed to make MONEY, surprise, surprise. Grocery stores have invested large amount of money to study the shopping habits of their customers. They have literally studied every aspect of shopping. From the layout of the stores, the colors on the shelves, the lighting, music, to the angles in which a product is placed on the shelf. All of this is part of a carefully thought out process intended to get you to stay longer and seduce into buying more then you initially intended.
Let’s start when you first enter the store. Usually you enter through a door that is meant only for entering the store. Is this for safety reasons? Perhaps, perhaps not. If you notice the exit door is usually on the other end of the store and usually requires you to go through a maze of tempting items calling out your name in order to get to it.
Once you enter the store normally the first department you encounter is the produce department. Don’t think this is for convenience, the reasoning here is to get your senses going. Between the scents, textures, and colors (think bright colored fruits, shiny smooth vegetables) the intent is to make us feel upbeat and hungry. Companies have analyzed this set up so much that they have found that customers prefer specific colors compared to others. For example customers purchase more bananas when the peel color resembles Pantone color 12-0752 (Buttercup) rather than the slightly brighter Pantone color 13-0858 (Vibrant Yellow). As a result banana growers started planting their crops under conditions tailored to produce Buttercup. Below is a picture illustrating how particular colors are used to represent flavors and evoke curtain emotions:
Even the lighting of the produce section is no accident. Lights are meticulously chosen to help make fruits and vegetable seem their brightest and best. Oh and the occasional water sprayers that water the produce bins, are for show. That first glance these waters sprayers are meant to help keep foods fresh, nope they’re actually meant to give these foods a deceptive dewy and fresh picked look according to Martin Lindstrom, author of Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy. The water actually has no practical purpose. In fact it makes the vegetable spoil faster.
Overall a stores goal is to keep you in the store as long as possible. Thus is why the dairy department is normally placed furthest from the entrance and which is also why the most popular items are usually placed in the middle of the aisles. Stores set this up so shoppers have to walk the length of the store and pass by a variety of enticing items and then return back this is called the Boomerang Effect.
The music that plays in stores is even set up to keep you shopping longer and encourages you to purchase more items. According to a study written by Ronald E. Milliman in The Journal of Marketing, Using Background Music to Affect the Behavior of Supermarket Shoppers, found that people spent 34 percent more time shopping in stores that played music. Resulting in more purchases. In addition stores make it hard to know who long you’ve been in the store. Most stores tend to no have clocks visible and don’t have windows or skylights alerting shoppers of the time of day. All of these tactics have a simple goal in mind: The longer you stay in the store, the more stuff you’ll see and as a result the more stuff you will buy. According to brain-scan experiments conducted by Paul Mullins and colleagues of Bangor University, Wales, after about 40 minutes of shopping, most people stop struggling to make ration decisions, and instead begin shopping emotionally. Which results in accumulating about 50% more stuff than you initially intended to buy.
Product placement is another important aspect of stores. Often times you’ll find the most expensive items placed at eye level and the lower ticketed items are usually in places that require you to crouch to find them. Companies performed such extensive reach they know to give mascots on cereal boxes marketed to children an average look down of 9.6 degrees so they will look the child in the eyes. (1) Furthermore companies often pay a premium price to have their products placed on the ends of the aisles or also known as end caps. Studies have shown that products are up to 8 times more likely to sell if they are place at these end caps (2).
Lastly it’s no accident shopping carts have increased in size over the years. Shopping carts were originally invented in 1937 by Sylvan Goodwin. They were two wire baskets attached to a folding frame (2). Since then shopping carts have grown immensely, even up to 3 times the size of Goodwin’s original design. Is this to make shopping easier? I think not, according to Martin Lindstrom doubling the size of the shopping cart can lead to shoppers purchasing up to 40 percent more (3).
I hope the take away from all of this is to be as prepared as can and to plan ahead before going to the grocery store. These stores have sent countless hours and millions of dollars researching how to get you to spend more time and money in their stores. As my wife always says “failing to plan is planning to fail.” Below are a couple of picture that might help you navigate to store a bit easier and hopefully help you send less $ as well. So make a list, move quickly through the store, only go to the locations that the items are that you need and don’t get hepatized and drawn in my all the bright colors and fancy displays, and shiny light. Before you know it you may feel as if you’re walking through a casino rather than your local grocery store.
DO DO NOT