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How supermarkets get you to spend more money

Tactics shown with motion eye-tracking technology

We fitted two shoppers with eye-tracking technology to help us unlock the tactics that supermarkets use to get you to spend more.

The technology recorded shoppers’ eye movements, enabling us and a panel of experts to analyse the video footage to find out what elements of supermarket design and layout affect shopping habits. Our video below shows how five key tactics affected what our shoppers chose to put in their trolleys, including the influence of shelf layout, store layout, special offers and even the colours that supermarkets use.

Video: supermarket shopping psychology

It’s not always possible to know what’s a deliberate tactic on behalf of the supermarkets. However, in all the supermarkets our undercover shoppers bought products that weren’t on their lists – sometimes buying almost twice as many products as they planned.

Which? members can read the full article ‘How supermarkets get you to spend more’ in the May 2014 issue of Which? magazine. If you’re not a member you can sign up to get instant access to all our investigations and reviews.

Supermarket store layout

As well as the tactics uncovered in the video above we also found multiple other ways that the supermarkets get you to chose one product over another. Here are three more ways that supermarkets influence you with store layout:

1. The initial ‘decompression zone’, at the front of the supermarket, has much less in it. It takes the average shopper about 10 steps to adapt to the store’s environment and slow their pace to ‘shopping speed’. The slower you move, the more you are likely to buy.

2. Products that are bought together are often on the shelf together to encourage you to buy all of them – whether that’s a meal deal or gin and tonic.

3. Supermarkets sometimes make aisles wider than is really necessary. The theory is that the less you have to navigate tightly packed areas, the more of your peripheral vision is available to be distracted by the products you pass.

How we carried out our supermarket research

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 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.

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