Shelf Psychology

Most of us think of ourselves as rational, level-minded adults with good control over our impulses. We resist losing our temper when someone cuts the queue, force a smile when our boss brushes off our proposal as irrelevant, grit our teeth in heavy traffic.

But for many of us, all our resistance seem to fly out the door once we enter a supermarket or hypermarket, even with all the wise advice on shopping with a full stomach, preparing a shopping list and bringing limited cash.

Here’s why: supermarkets actually utilize what is known as ‘shelf psychology’, scientifically-proven strategies that make us shop more. Here are some of the top strategies used in shelf psychology:

1)      Strategic spacing

Did you think the meat, fish and fresh food products are placed at the end of the shop to separate the wet from the dry? Not so. Retails experts know that fresh food is the highest selling items in a supermarket.

Placing the right at the end makes you walk past rows of non-essentials such as chocolate, cookies, snacks that would somehow end up in your shopping cart. In the same way, exits and entrances are carefully crafted to guide through lanes with high impulse buying potential such as RM5 table lamps, RM2 mugs or RM10 T-shirts.

2)      Seductive sights and scents

Ever noticed how most supermarkets place fruits, flowers or bread near the entrances? The warm welcoming colours, scents and sights gives us a psychological boost, making us feel loved – and let our shopping guard down!

3)      Eye level

According to experts, the eye is programmed to focus on the centre of a picture. With that, middle shelves which are at eye level are considered prime space, because the products there all sell better than others. If you ever brand your product, remember this trick- eye level placement- to get better results.

4)      Straight rows

We may not realize it, but the mind finds straight rows more comforting because we are not left guessing what lies around the corner. It gives one a sense of reassurance in terms of price, comfort and transparency, making us spend more than we planned to before we arrived.

Planned townships work around the same strategy; making people feel safe and reassured into buying property in the township.

5)      Lights and sounds

Why do watches, jewelry, even wine look so pretty in their glass cases but seem to lose their elegance and luster once you bring them home? The trick is in the lighting- carefully angled soft lights that bring out the shine.

In the same way, the choice of music can affect the way you shop. Slow classical music at a shop selling high-end products serenade people into believing that their expensive products puts them a class apart. At supermarkets, shop assistants notice a more frenzied, excited environment when fast, energetic music is played.

6)      Price psychology

We know something tagged RM0.99 is really RM1, in the same way something priced RM9999 is really RM10,000. Yet, the mind still believes that the price is still ‘less than one ringgit’ or 9 thousand-something! It helps to be aware of this trick as the price difference can be significant especially in big-item purchases.

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