It’s no secret that when you visit a supermarket intending to buy a loaf of bread it’s easy to leave with three air fresheners and some asparagus instead. But you may not know why…
That’s why, with advanced motion-eye tracking technology, we followed supermarket shoppers’ subconscious eye movements to unlock the tactics supermarkets use to influence what you buy.
We used motion-eye tracking technology to record a visit to Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco. We used two shoppers, who visited two of the supermarkets each, to carry out a mid-week shop.
The results were then analysed by three experts from Bournemouth University: Lesley Laver, demonstrator in psychology; Dr Jeff Bray, senior lecturer in retail consumer behaviour and Dr Charles McIntyre, senior lecturer in retail marketing.
The psychology of supermarkets
So what did we discover? Our shoppers were affected by shelf layout, store layout, special offers and even colour. In all the supermarkets the shoppers bought products that weren’t on their lists – sometimes buying almost twice as many products as they planned.
Here are three tactics we observed during our visits:
1. You read shelves from left to right and top to bottom so supermarkets put more profitable products, such as own-brand products, to the right or under the leading brand – where your eye will come to rest. In Asda the own-brand soya milk was to the right of the branded and in very similar packaging. Our shopper deliberated but chose the own brand.
2. You may find that products that are associated together can be located next to each other to encourage you to buy all of them. In Sainsbury’s the shopper wanted noodles and ended up with a whole meal deal.
3. Your peripheral vision notices movement, but not necessarily fixed signs. Asda had ‘wobbly signs’ advertising offers in the aisles – essentially a flag. Our shopper almost made it past the cheese offers, but was then drawn back by the motion.
What tactics have you noticed in supermarkets? Does having to go to the back for the bread drive you crazy? And do you find you always leave the supermarket with more than you intended?