6 Ways Retailers Trick You Into Buying More Sh*t
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“Triangular balance” sounds like some sort of architectural principle, but it’s actually a psychological tool retailers use to maximize profits.
"Triangular balance is used everywhere and it's very effective,” visual merchandising consultant Karl McKeever told the Telegraph. “It works on the idea that your eye will always go to the center of a picture. Here, they put the biggest, tallest products with the highest profit margin in the center of each shelf and arrange the other sizes around them to make it look attractive. When you look at the triangle on the shelf, your eye goes straight to the middle and the most expensive box."
Another basic trick to boost sales is to toss it on an end cap – those areas at the end of each aisle. The most profitable items are often kept there (McKeever calls them the “monthly engines of the business”), and shoppers are encouraged to pass by as many end caps as possible (see #2).
5. “Just toss everything in a pile. People like that.”
While many of these retailer tricks seem intuitive, this is a relatively weird one: Some stores create intentionally messy displays and pile crap in the aisles to boost sales.
Last year the New York Times reported that “After the recessionary years of shedding inventory and clearing store lanes for a cleaner, appealing look, retailers are reversing course and redesigning their spaces to add clutter.”
What the what? The piece explains:
As it turns out, the messier and more confusing a store looks, the better the deals it projects.
“Historically, the more a store is packed, the more people think of it as value — just as when you walk into a store and there are fewer things on the floor, you tend to think they’re expensive,” said Paco Underhill, founder and chief executive of Envirosell, who studies shopper behavior.
It’s also not unheard of for clothing stores to intentionally let tables of pants and sweaters get a little disheveled, because it makes the merchandise seem in-demand. ( If other people are checking out these jeans, they must be a good deal.)
6. Analyzing our every move.
Retailers and analysts didn’t conjure up these quirks of human psychology in a dream. No, they’ve closely studied shopper behavior, treating customers “like laboratory rats,” according to USA Today.
Just as some lab rats get only a placebo, retailers typically test new strategies by giving shoppers in certain areas a promotion — or fixed-up store — while others are the control group. Growing pressure to improve profit margins means retailers' decisions must get results. People can't just buy something they wouldn't have otherwise, they need to spend more.
These analyses can be simple, like counting shoppers in a specific demographic at a specific timeframe, or they can err on the creepy side, like implementing “digital signs with cameras that can detect where people's eyes move and direct promotions to that part of the screen.” Digital signs can also “determine that the person walking through is a man, put up an image of a car or something else likely to attract his attention and then slip in an ad for a men's cologne,” according to someone who designs that technology.
“Store loyalty cards” – you know, those little doohickeys you keep on your key chain, ostensibly to save money – also help store owners figure out who is shopping and when, so they can squeeze the most money possible out of each demographic of shopper. So they may cost you more money than they save you in the long run.