5 Ways Retailers Trick Shoppers Into Spending More

Source: Thinkstock
Source: Thinkstock

Most of us have a budget to stick to, and that can be difficult when you head out to do your shopping. Whether you are going to the grocery store with a shopping list or you are entering your favorite clothing store for a new pair of pants, it can be difficult to leave the store with only the items you planned to purchase. This is because retailers have many ways of tricking shoppers into spending more than they intend to.

From the way sales are advertised, to the way that aisles are organized, to the way a place smells, everything in a store is designed to make you spend your money. These tricks are not limited to physical stores either; even online shoppers can be tricked into spending more than they planned.

Here are some of the many tricks you should watch out for.

1. Advertising sales

Who doesn’t like a good sale? Just the word itself makes many of us want to jump into our cars and head to the store. A sale can be a great thing if you really need a certain item, but if you are only going to a store because there is a sale, then you are being tricked into spending money that you don’t need to spend. A sale is useless if you end up purchasing something you don’t need, or you impulse shop.

Even if an item you truly need is on sale, most retailers assume that once you are in the store, you will spend more. Even if a retailer gives a discount on a certain item, they will still be getting more money overall if you purchase several items once you get to the store.

2. Choosing specific prices

Most retailers also use psychological pricing; this can include using odd pricing ($1.99 instead of $2.00), and prestige pricing (charging $500 instead of $450 in order to appeal to an audience who equates cost with quality. Offering buy one, get one free products is another way to encourage shoppers to spend more money. However, many stores will just give you 50% off one item if the item is part of a buy one, get one free sale. If the store will only honor this deal if you do purchase two items, then they are tricking you by encouraging you to spend more money (unless the item was something you were planning to purchase anyway.)

Spending 99 cents instead of a dollar really isn’t going to affect your wallet, but when you enter a store and see a smaller price, it can be easy to fall victim to this pricing strategy. The same is true for getting “free” items. Lastly, a higher price tag doesn’t always mean that you are getting a better product.

3. Attacking your senses

One of the best ways to get someone’s attention is through his or her senses. Retailers know this is true, and they may use bright colors and aromas to attract customers to certain products. Bright colors might attract you to a certain item, and different colors invoke different emotions. This can happen in an actual store as well as through an ad in the mail, or even online. According to Directory Journal, when shopping online, red can make you hungry or energetic, blue can make you feel secure and trusting, and light green can make you feel calm.

Smells can also encourage you to spend more money. Grocery stores and restaurants are full of enticing scents begging you to spend your money. Even department stores use smells to attract customers (imagine the aroma that certain candles give off, and the way perfume counters draw you in.) Music or sounds can also affect your shopping experience.

4. Strategically placing items

When you enter a grocery store, you will face many different items. Retailers know that where an item is placed will affect how likely a customer is to purchase it. Impulse items are often at the front of the store near the checkout aisles, so that customers have to pass them in order to pay for their items. According to Syncrat, the most expensive items are placed at eye-level so that you see them first. Related items are also often grouped together to encourage you to spend more. Stores even create obstacles in order to encourage shoppers to spend more time in the store, which can lead to more purchases.

The same tactics are used in other stores. Clothing stores have impulse items as well, and they often place sale items near dressing rooms, so that customers who can’t pass up a deal stop and check out the sales.

5. Targeting online shoppers

While you may think that if you do most of your shopping online, you can avoid many of the common gimmicks used in stores, online retailers have other ways of getting your money. According to U.S. News and World Report, retargeting is a common way that online retailers get you to spend money. You may do a search for a particular item, and then see that item again later when you are reading something else online. You also might see an ad for an item related to an item you already searched for or purchased; these ads encourage you to buy items that might pair well with something else you are interested in. Retailers also might send coupons only to certain customers based on their online habits, and you can also receive target ads depending on where you live.

There are many other ways that retailers trick customers. Even the words that workers who earn commission use can affect your purchases (think: “time is running out!”). Seeing advertisements and facing marketing tricks are an inherent part of shopping; you can’t completely avoid them. However, knowing how retailers target their customers, and how these tactics cause you to spend more, can make you more aware when you go to a store, or when you shop online.

Want more great content like this? Sign up here to receive the best of Cheat Sheet delivered daily. No spam; just tailored content straight to your inbox.