The Store Design and Layout Game
There's nothing haphazard about the layout of your grocery store or where various food items are placed within the store. It starts with the placement of the entry, which has a significant effect on how people shop and how much we spend.
- Right-hand side entries favor counter-clockwise movement through the shop, while left-hand side entries favor clockwise patterns.
- Counter-clockwise shoppers spend, on average, $2 more per trip, than do clockwise shoppers.
- People use the perimeter as a home base, so key items are placed on the perimeter of the supermarket.
- Shorter trips tend to stick predominantly to the perimeter.
- Familiar brands are placed at the end of aisles to serve as a psychological ‘welcome mat’ to those aisles, which results in increased traffic.
- Products at the center of the aisle will receive less “face time”
- On an average shopping trip we cover about 25% of the supermarket.
People who use the fresh food (e.g., meat, fruit and vegetables) areas tend to spend more, so supermarkets place the produce area at the beginning (or the end) of the supermarket experience. They also make the produce area a relaxed, inviting, and fresh/clean environment to create a sense of trust and emotional involvement in the shopping experience.
Contrary to popular belief, we don’t weave up and down aisles. Research of movement patterns using GPS trackers attached to carts show that people tend to travel in select aisles and rarely in a systematic up and down pattern.
Even long shopping trips are punctuated by short excursions into and out of the aisle, rather than traversing the entire length of the aisle. What this means is that key products (the ones with the greatest profit margins, or those that have paid a premium), will be placed at the ends of aisles in endcap displays.
Supermarkets are designed to make you walk out with way more items in your shopping bags than you intended. They do this by being designed to slow us down as much as possible. According to research every extra minute we spend lingering will cost us $1.70. The more time a supermarket gets us to spend in the store, the more money we will likely spend. This is why milk is put way at the back. A store is often designed so that you cannot even follow a straight path to the back but must move around the produce, the fresh baked bread and the large displays in the middle of the aisles.
Sure, some of the layout is practical (like refrigerated cases along the periphery or meat cases in the back by the store's loading dock), but some is carefully calculated to ‘help’ us part with more money. Walk in the front doors and chances are you're faced immediately with hard-to-resist items (not on your list) like fresh-cut flowers or just-baked loaves of bread. Just try walking past them en route to a carton of milk without tossing something extra into your cart.
Think it's a coincidence that you almost always have to walk through the produce department when you enter the supermarket? The produce is the second most profitable section. While it occupies a little over 10% of the supermarket, it brings in close to 20% of the store's profits.
- People also tend to use the perimeter of the shop as the main thoroughfare, rather than heading down aisles.
- Supermarkets don’t block your way, but they do “push” the products that you may be interested in, into your path.
- Many items are opportunistic purchases, or impulse, however, they tend to, again, be in the main pathways around the supermarket – although there are some caveats to this, particularly in relation to the placement of staples such as milk and bread.
Arrangement of the Products on the shelves is designed to have us explore and buy …
Some products are categorized and shelved according to their value to the shop. Leading brands and more recently store-labels, are put in high traffic locations and are given priority for secondary placement. Niche categories are placed in visible, but low traffic areas – because the target market is willing to hunt for them.
The Keep Us Guessing Strategy
Many supermarkets make it a habit to re-arrange the store layout every once in awhile just to get us to ‘explore’ all the aisles to find what we are looking for and hopefully do a little impulse buying in the process.
The Leveraging of Human Characteristics Mole
Products at eye level sells! Companies pay big bucks to place their products at adult eye level for adult sales or children's eye level for children's sales. Stocking fees or "slotting allowances" are often paid to place products at eye level. Brand-name products and high profit products are often sold this way. Food companies pay for product placement and we pay the mark-up to the companies every time we purchase their item. The little-known companies and local food producers are often on the very top shelf or way down at floor level because they can’t afford to be right in the middle, where companies pay a stiff price to be closer to your eyes and hands.
Forget Peer Pressure try The Pressure of Children Gambit
Kid-friendly food is purposely placed within their reach. Anyone who shops with a child (or several) in tow has to keep an eye out for products the kids grab and toss into the cart. "I always tell parents never to bring a kid to a store," says Nestle. "The packages with the cartoons on them are often placed on low shelves where even toddlers can reach for them." A trip down the cereal aisle will confirm this. "Sugary cereals are at kid's eye level, while the healthier, all-bran options are usually on the highest shelves," says Tara Gidus, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. It's the same situation at the cash register, where candy and gum are strategically placed to encourage impulse buys by adults and kids can easily grab low-lying products.
End-of-aisle Display Obstacle
These are there to distract you. Supermarkets strategically place non-sale items along with the big sale items at the end aisle displays. They hope we will buy the item thinking it’s on sale. "Food companies pay the stores to place their products where they can be seen most easily—such as in a display at the end of an aisle," says Nestle. That prime real estate is likely to hold high-profit items or grouped items (such as marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers for s'mores) designed to inspire impulse buys. And although sometimes those aisle-ends are used to promote sale items, mostly they are used to have us think the item is on sale and buy it. "People are 30 percent more likely to buy items on the end of the aisle versus in the middle of the aisle—often because we think what's at the end is a better deal," says Brian Wansink, Ph.D., director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University and author of Mindless Eating (Bantam, 2007).
The Impulse Buying Attack
Not surprisingly, grocery store ‘eye candy’ (which sometimes is actual candy), you know those foods with enticing come-ons and delectable photos on the packaging that aren't on your shopping list—are prominently placed to encourage you to reach for them.
When you are bored and standing in line at the check-out counter, you may find yourself reaching for a magazine, a pack of batteries, duct tape, or chewing gum. It turns out that this section of the store sells roughly 3x as much merchandise per square foot as the rest of the store (Food Marketing Institute, Washington DC). Often these are high profit items. Batteries, for example, usually sell for less at discount department stores.
The next post will be on the Lighting Game, the Life Style Game, the Freezing Switch-a-roo and Pricing Games ;-}
“Every step we take towards making the State the caretaker of our lives, by that much we move toward making the State our master.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower