We have spoken about how supermarkets tend to merchandise their retail shelving gondolas before. But there are plenty of other ways that large retailers encourage impulse purchases from their customers. Some of these can be replicated by independent retailers to increase sales too.
One of the key things that influences the purchases that a customer makes, is the speed at which they travel through a shop. When customers walk more slowly, they consider products more thoroughly and so are more likely to see items that they will then go on to purchase. When a customer walks through a shop at speed, they are less likely to make impulse purchasing decisions. for this reason, it is in the retailer’s interest to try to slow shoppers down.
One way of doing this is to lead customers into the shop gently. Many of us rush around and squeeze our weekly shop in between all of the other things that we are doing. This is why in the big supermarkets there is often a big open space when you enter the door. The idea behind this is to a) provide customers with a line of sight to enticing areas of the store and b) to slow them down as they come in – before they make their way into the packed aisles.
Some supermarkets have been even smarter about this. They use a clever floor tile trick. It is used in the luxury aisles that contain all of the nice-to-have items with bigger price tags. Floor tiles that are very slightly narrower than those used in the rest of the shop are used to line the floor in the luxury aisles. Although the size difference is minimal, shoppers fall under the illusion that they are travelling faster than they really are. As a result they slow their walking pace in these aisles. This makes them more likely to take in more of the items and go on to purchase them. Sneaky!
Shopping trolleys are 3 times as large as they were when they first started being used in 1938. Brandwashed conducted an experiment where they doubled the size of shopping trolleys and found that customers began purchasing up to 40% more than they had been with the smaller trolleys.
Interestingly, a shopping basket causes a very different impact on shopping habits. It doesn’t cause a reduction in spend in the way you might expect. A study found that when it comes to shopping baskets the size of the basket is not the most important factor. Holding a shopping basket causes shoppers to feel like making more impulse purchases of unhealthy items. It is thought to be owing to the sensation of tensed muscles.
Much like the sneaky floor tile trick, music can be used to slow shoppers down. Slow music has been found to encourage customers to increase their time spent in store by 15% compared to where loud music or no music was being played. Conversely, fast paced music is often credited with encouraging impulse sales and with motivating action from customers. Usually the most important factor is considered to be that the music fits the atmosphere of a shop and that it is appropriate for target customers.
Queuing systems are the shelving fittings that sit by the till. They encourage customers to browse items (usually sweets and treats) as they wait for till service. This offers a few really useful functions. Firstly, due to the shape of the units, there aren’t really any flat surfaces on which to offload unwanted goods. This makes it harder for shoppers to ditch items just as they get to the till.
Secondly, the shoppers are momentarily trapped, waiting for the cashier’s attention. At this point the customer is usually scanning their brain to see if they have forgotten anything. The only useful prompts available are things that they can see around them. Having quickly scanned their basket, the shoppers begin to look around and right between them, and the thing that has most of their attention at this moment (the cashier) lies a whole bunch of treats and up-sells. Perfect.
The endowment effect describes when retailers allow you to imagine that you already own a particular item. In supermarkets there are two favourite ways to do this. The first is to use big inspirational images that are usually on a light box or a large banner. These are usually images of happy people wearing the latest items from the supermarkets own brand clothing range, or images of large delicious items around the delicatessen counters.
The second way supermarkets foster the endowment effect is by offering tasters. By giving out samples and tasters, customers are already trialing an item. Instead of the retailer having to talk the customer into picking an item up to look at it, the tables have been turned. The customer now has to think of a good reason not to buy it. Half of the battle has been won.
This is even being adopted by the supermarkets through their home delivery channels. Samples of washing powders, snacks and even baby food are being distributed to customers. It removes some of the risk that a customer perceives when they think about trying a new product. They get to see if they like it and then invest in it. Ideal.