Stop: Don’t Buy That

How to Avoid Impulse Purchases at the Store

Have you ever walked into a grocery store to pick up just one item and walked out with two bags worth of stuff? Yea, me too.

Grrrr…it makes me so angry whenever I do things like this. Retailers are so adept at getting us to spend more money than we intend to once we walk into their shops. The big companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually researching exactly how to make us buy things we never intended to. And it’s working, big time. A study by the retail branding firm, The Integer Group, found that 9 out of 10 shoppers make impulse purchases.

Impulse purchases are often described as unplanned, spontaneous purchases that are done without any prior research by the customer. In general there are five methods retailers employ to get us to part with our money, without us even realizing it. Knowing when you’re being sold, is half the battle!

Ever walked into a grocery store and seen hundreds of Coca-Cola or Pepsi twelve packs stacked in an amazing design, stacked all the way up to the ceiling? Yea…that’s a retailers attempt to dazzle you and make you lose control.

Grocery stores do it with drinks and retailers do it thru color. Clothing retailers are famous for using this technique as well. Usually as soon as you walk into their store a group of similarly colored items will catch your eye. There will be a mannequin or two sporting a new, bold color standing next to a display case of shirts, pants or whatever in a similar shade. All of which is done under the guise of catching our attention.

Once they’ve got our attention, their aim is to get us to want the item so bad we buy it without much thought. Trust me, if a display dazzles you and it’s near the entrance…YOU ARE BEING SOLD!!

Professional poker players try and find out what their opponents ‘tell’ is. They look for the twiddling of chips between the fingers, the infinitesimal furrowing of the brow, or an exhalation of breath for signs their opponent is bluffing. Any item placed in a front and center location is usually a dead giveaway of an impulse purchase item, but it’s not an item’s only tell.

As I walked down the long rows of tank tops at Old Navy this past weekend I couldn’t help but notice that nearly every display table had a special pricing sign on it. One such sign proclaimed: Buy 1 for $12.99 or 2 for $9.99 each. Macy’s had a similar display that went something like this: Buy 1 save 10%, Buy 2 save 20%, Buy 3 save 30%!

All of these “deals” got me thinking. How many of the same thing do I really need? Retailers seem to be telling me that the more I buy, the more I will save. The reality is that promotional pricing like this is a technique used to get you to spend more money than you originally intended to. Think about it. If that display table of tank tops had a sign on it that read $9.99 each would you buy more than one? Probably not.

Another technique this Old Navy store seemed to rely on was the point of purchase displays. Oh man I wish I would have taken a picture of how they wrapped customers around a long display case chock full of small items while we waited in line for the next available check-out clerk.

The beauty store Sephora is really good at this too. As you stand in line to pay for your purchases, you have stands on your right and left sides full of items that might as well be stamped with the words IMPULSE BUY! Travel sized nail polishes, fold-up brushes that are great for traveling, chap-sticks in every imaginable color, and tiny hand-held mirrors that somehow are the perfect size to fit in my clutch, line these tables begging me to touch them while convincing me I need them.

Every type of store has perfected the point of purchase impulse buy items. Grocery stores stock magazines and candy for you to look at while waiting to pay for your food items. Electronic stores like Best Buy stack batteries, protective casings for our cell phones, and cleaning cloths for our new equipment along the check-out stations.

Just know that all of those items placed within reaching distance are put there for a specific purpose…to get us to buy them without thinking about it! We are being sold!

As you become more and more aware of the tricks stores employ to get us to spend more money with them, you will be able to pick out new ones very easily.  See if you can spot this marketing technique for yourself the next time you go into a store. Retailers love to use holidays and current trends to get us to buy their stuff. Grocery stores will put holiday cards at random places around the store and beef up their flower displays to get you to buy around certain holidays.

For example the weeks before the fourth of July. Suddenly red, white and blue decorations will be placed next to charcoal and Independence Day themed paper plates and other grilling items. All of these items, that aren’t normally grouped together, will be placed front and center to convince us that we need them and that last year’s ones simply won’t do. These displays are not on accident.

Nor is it an accident that electronics stores tell you that you simply must get a new USB cord or HDMI cable whenever you buy a new TV or laptop. For electronic stores, cross-sells like these constitute a major source of their revenue.

You’ll see the cross-sell technique used quite well in clothing retailers as well. Once I’ve found a dress I like, inevitably a sales assistant will be there to convince me that I simply must buy the belt that will make the dress even prettier or the earrings that brings out the color of my eyes. Gag me.

Cross-selling is rampant online. Every time I place an item to my cart a pop-up appears to tell me what similar customers have bought with that product. It’s all in an effort to get us to spend more money with them. We see it as a helpful suggestion; retailers see it as adding to their bottom line.

Next time you head to the grocery store or clothing retailers try to spot one of these impulse buying techniques. Now that you are a little more informed about the games these companies play, hopefully you’ll be better able to defend against them. Perhaps even you’ll leave the store with only one bag or your cart will be a little less full, and that’s a good thing.

Keeping Money in Your Pocket,

Nancy Patterson

 
 
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