What Your Supermarket Knows About You…


Have you gone grocery shopping for a few basics and ended up with dozens of items in your cart? Or indulged in free samples while you shopped?

Blame our primitive instincts.

Customer spending is down these days and grocery retailers are pulling out all stops to get us in buying mode, says Mark Lindstrom, author of Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy.

Of course, who doesn’t love those two-for-one deals? But did you know that when we come across a great deal, dopamine – a neurotransmitter that oversees the brain’s pleasure center – is released in our brain, giving us feelings of pleasure? You don’t have to succumb. Here are a few tips to help you cross off items on your grocery list, instead of adding more:

  • Pay attention to the signs…literally. Marketing experts say that customers are less likely to reach for items marked with a dollar sign in front of the price. The dollar sign makes the customer think of cost, instead of gain.
  • Don’t follow your nose. Those delicious smells coming from the bakery or meals-to-go section located near the store’s entrance fuel your cravings. Be disciplined. If it’s not on your shopping list, you probably don’t need it.
  • Two-for-one offers are not always as good a deal as they appear. Do the math and make sure the supposed markdown will actually save you money.
  • Free samples come with strings attached – like coupons that encourage you to buy.

Aesthetics are important. Some grocery stores will purposely design an aisle with vibrant, high-quality tiles on the floor in order to get you to buy the products sold in that section. The design offers a sense of quality, so customers are likely to flock to buy those products, says Lindstrom.