Have you ever walked into a store for one thing and came out with an entire bag of clothing or accessories that you weren’t planning on buying? I’m sure all of you were nodding your heads. I know I’m guilty of this!
What if I told you that it wasn’t your fault?
There is a long list of marketing tricks that retailers use to encourage you to spend more money while in their store. Many of these tactics are subtle. You may not even realize it is happening. Retailers are making carefully calculated decisions designed to increase their bottom line at your expense.
After working several different jobs in retail, my eyes were opened. I have previously worked retail at a clothing store, a shoe store, and a bridal boutique. While the merchandise was different, the marketing tricks all had some similarities. Here are 8 of the most common strategies used to trick you into buying more.
If there is a sale sign in a store window, you are much more likely to go into that store. It is human nature to be attracted to cheaper prices. Retailers use this to their advantage by creating sales signs that entice you to enter the store. However, once you’re in the store, you find that just a small rack in the corner is on sale. Getting you into the store is key. Once they have your attention, they have the opportunity to sell to you.
Also, not only can sales be a bit elusive, but their carefully crafted wording can play tricks on your mind. BOGO (buy one get one) sales are a great example of this common marketing trick. If a sign says “buy one, get one 50% off,” you are enticed to buy not one, but two things. Typically, they are things that you don’t actually need, but it sounds like you’re getting an awesome deal. In reality, a BOGO sale is the same as saying “everything is 25% off.” That doesn’t sound nearly as exciting or as money saving, does it?
The layout of a store is never random. Retailers strategically place each display, mannequin, and fixture. Clothing stores are often purposely laid out in a chaotic way. It is their goal that you will walk through the whole store, specifically if you are in search of just one item. This increases the chance that you will find something else that catches your eye and purchase more than you originally planned.
Similarly, most stores have their clearance section located in the very back of the store. To browse the clearance section, you have to walk through the entire store. You are more likely to find something of regular price that catches your eye on the way there.
IKEA takes this layout concept to an entirely different level. There is one entrance and one outlet. You’re forced to walk through the entire store maze just to get out (and it is not a short walk!). The possibility of finding extra things to buy goes up dramatically the longer you’re in a store.
On the same note, another way retailers lay out a store is based on human behavior. Studies have confirmed that when most people enter a store, they immediately turn right. This often occurs due to right side of the body being dominant in the majority of the population. It is also the way traffic flows in the western hemisphere. Based on this behavior, many stores are set up to have their most expensive merchandise at the front, right side of the store. Tricky right?
A good display can sell anything. A store that sells t-shirts that cost $3 to make, can easily be sold for $20 with nice folding, organized by size, good lighting, pretty accessories, and attention to detail. When a store displays clothing well, it becomes more attractive to a consumer. A beautiful display makes you want to buy something.
While this is a great tactic to sell regular priced and new merchandise, retailers tend to use the opposite technique on the clearance section. Have you ever notice how disorganized and chaotic the clearance section appears to be at almost every single store? It is a complete mish-mash of clothing styles, colors, and sizes. This is done purposefully and tactfully to steer you away from buying off the clearance rack. You can never find what you’re looking for and the longer you spend searching, the more likely you are to give up on. Creating a clearance section that is in disarray, discourages shoppers. Suddenly, the regular priced, well organized clothing becomes more attractive. If a retailer can sell more regular priced merchandise, they end up with more money in their pockets.
Beware of the small items located near the checkout counter. You rarely go into the store to buy perfume, car vent clips, candy, phone cases, key chains, and other little accessories. While waiting in line to pay, you find a cute beanie that suddenly you have to have. Maybe you notice a pair of earrings that are definitely going to go with everything you own. You make an impulsive decision to buy it. Immediately the total amount goes up because you didn’t plan to buy it. Try to avoid falling for this no matter how good the candy looks or how cute a furry key chain is.
A good sales person can sell anything. The more you are willing to talk to them and the more they learn about you, their chances of making a sale dramatically increase. While they always seem kind and polite, remember that it is their job to be. They want you to buy something.
It is common to ask for their advice about an outfit or accessory you’re trying on. Think about it. If it looks bad on you, do you really think they’re going to give you the honest truth? In most cases, probably not. It’s typically all about making the sale. Avoid making friendships with them and cornering yourself into buying something you don’t need or won’t wear.
Also, be cautious and able to recognize the up-sell. This happens when a sales associate attempts to convince you to buy more items. When I worked retail at a shoe store one summer, this was the most important part of my job. It was a requirement to bring additional pairs of similar styles shoes each time a customer asked to try something on. Also, I was trained to sell additional accessories with all purchases. This could include matching handbags, socks, and blister preventing padding. The more things I could get them to buy, the better. I had sales goals to meet each month to keep my job.
This happens at nearly every store. Typically, it is even worse when employees wages are based on the commission off your purchases. Don’t be afraid to say no to a sales associate if you’re not comfortable buying anything more!
I’m sure many of you are members of different loyalty programs at stores that you regularly shop at. By being a member, you are offered special deals, members only benefits, able to earn points towards future purchases and much more. Sometimes, these deals and incentives work in your favor, but most of the time they are just another tool for retailers that are designed to earn money. Existing customers make up the majority of a company’s profits. Loyalty programs ensure that you will continue to purchase from their store.
Many stores have loyalty programs where you can earn extra coupons in the mail for being a member. Getting a 30% off coupon in the mail, encourages you to come into the store and use it. Since you perceive that you’re getting a great discount with the coupon, you might buy extra items. While, this is great for items that you truly need, it can also have a negative impact. A coupon encourages you to buy items that you don’t need and otherwise wouldn’t buy without the coupon. Next thing you know, you’re in the parking lot with 3 giant shopping bags and a mile long receipt.
Kohl’s, for example, offers $10 Kohl’s cash with every $50 you spend to use at a later date. Have you ever let your $10 Kohl’s cash go to waste? No way! Its free money after all, right? But is it really? What can you actually buy for $10? Maybe some socks or underwear. That’s about it. Their goal is that you will come back to the store and buy an item that costs more than $10. This means that will be a remaining balance leftover after using the coupon during a transaction.
Another example is, Victoria Secret has coupon promotions, where you can get a free panty with any purchase. This is a great incentive because people love “free” things. However, it’s not really free. Most of the time, you will spend more than the panty actually costs to buy. In both of these examples, the retailer was able to lure you into the store and earn a profit on whatever you ended up buying.
Supply & Demand
When an item is high demand, it becomes more expensive. This happens every year at Christmas time with toys, electronics, and all kinds of products. Kids ask for the most popular toys and retailers, knowingly, mark up the prices. This is also true when stores have signs saying “limited time offer” or “while merchandise lasts.” However, there are times when the retailer has a lot of a product, but they want the customer to believe that they don’t. In this case, retailers are pushing merchandise by creating a sense of urgency. You are willing to spend more if you believe it is a scarce item.
Think these tactics only apply to in store shopping? Think again. One example is that many online retailers set a free shipping minimum amount on orders. By doing this, it encourages you to add extra items to your cart just to earn the free shipping. Another example is when you add an item to your shopping cart online, it immediately shows you “like” products. Amazon does this by showing you what products other customers also bought to go with it or in addition to. On a clothing website, it is common to see other suggested garments, accessories, and shoes to “complete the look.” These are just a few of the many ways that retailers can still use common marketing tactics online to get you to spend more.
How many of these common marketing tricks have you fallen for when shopping? I think I’ve fallen for all of them a time or two. Being able to identify these common marketing tactics will save you money when shopping in the future.
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