How your favorite stores get you to buy more

TAMPA - Some of the biggest names in consumer goods like Colgate and Campbell's Soup invest millions of dollars, all in the name of predicting your future buying behavior.  To do that, they use stores that are more like a high-tech research lab.

We traveled all the way to Chicago to visit InVivo BVA USA.  The consumer goods research giant utilizes a fully stocked mock grocery store, surveillance cameras and eye tracking technology to test shoppers responses to different marketing strategies.

The companies that make and market everything from soup to nuts pour money into scientific and behavioral research in labs to persuade you to buy their products.

President John Traynor explains that the research done here enables clients to actually predict consumer behavior.  "We'll typically have 150 to 200 shoppers go through the store with the shelf organized one way then we will change the shelf to a different configuration and we will have another 150 to 200 people go thru with the shelf a different way and measure how much people buy under each situation."

"There's a lot of stuff going on right now we are now aware of," said Consumer Advocate Martin Lindstrom, who has written books on the subject.  He says retailers know more than ever before about what seduces consumers into spending.

Sophisticated eye-tracking technology plays a role in how your favorite brands are packaged. Researchers can actually tell how long your eye stayed on the package.  InVivo BVA USA also utilizes something called photo flash in which test subjects are asked if they recognize a product they see for 1/16th of a second.

John Traynor says this visual is all about testing a product's packaging to help companies determine if their package is clear to understand and easy to ready.

Retailers also do their own research.  Some design every element in the store from the floors to the lights to the sentimental favorites piped out of the speakers all in an attempt to get you to fill your cart.

Publix tests its customized end caps, column wraps and cascading displays on shoppers at its 54,000 square foot concept store in Naples.

The store's strategic merchandising translates into convenience for regulars.

Suggestive selling gives consumers ideas like pairing the wine you were looking for with some cheese, sausage and crackers that are all displayed on the same end cap, but none of which were on your list.

"We have to please our customers, but we have to please our stockholders and the store does this," said Publix's Shannon Patten.

On a smaller scale, firms like L and E Research right here in the bay area put together focus groups and mock shopping experiences for retailers and distributors, some of which study the test group's behavior behind a hidden window.

There are steps you can take to avoid falling prey to what Lindstrom calls 'zones of seduction' and straying from your list.

*Wear an iPod as upbeat music will help you move through the store faster.

*Avoid shopping with your kids - research shows that they make you spend up to 26% more.

*Always use cash payment - and preferably larger bills - it's called the denomination effect - the larger bills, the less money you spend

*Don't be hungry before you enter the store - you'll not only spend more money on food - but also on clothing items, shoes, toilet paper - everything because our hunting instinct kicks in.

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