5 More Forgotten Ways of Selling in Supermarkets

As recently as 20 years ago, supermarkets were full of psychological ‘influences’ strategically designed to impact on shopper perceptions and behaviour. For example, the physical widths of aisles would vary so that in some departments shoppers moved fast and ‘raced’ by the low margin products, while in others they were slowed down and exposed to more profitable lines.

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Grocery shopping has become boring! If the only thing I can compare is price, then guess what: I'll compare price! Nowadays supermarkets are less like retail emporia and more like faceless distribution warehouses with special offers. As a result they've lost some of their ability to persuade and sell.

As recently as 20 years ago, supermarkets were full of psychological ‘influences’ strategically designed to impact on shopper perceptions and behaviour. For example, the physical widths of aisles would vary so that in some departments shoppers moved fast and ‘raced’ by the low margin products, while in others they were slowed down and exposed to more profitable lines. Some aisles would be very brightly lit, while others were more illuminated more seductively. Deceleration zones got shoppers shopping as near to the entrance as possible and different types of music altered shopper perceptions as they browsed the aisles.

I myself have been involved in numerous projects that altered shopper behaviour and decision making. For example, we increased sales of home furnishings by 350% by creating an in-store display based on how women shop cosmetics. In another case, we re-engineered packaging so that men could handle the products inside and sales increased by more than 20%.

It seems strange that in the last 20 years, a period during which we've learnt more about the human mind than at any time previously, stores have become so psychologically disconnected with shoppers, shopping and consumption.

In this modern world of retail, awash with data and insight, but bereft of shopper oriented stores, there are some wonderful opportunities for both brands and retailers. Here then are 5 historically proven ways to quite simply, sell more stuff:

Emotions: As a species, we decide emotionally and justify rationally. This means that bombarding shoppers with information is less impactful than showing an emotional image of products being used and consumed. Spend less time, money and effort on price and promotion and start to understand what has emotional value to shoppers. I've engineered sales increases of 15%, 20% even 150% from just connecting with shoppers emotionally.

Occasions: It’s not what shoppers buy, but what they buy it for. Provide shoppers with prompts to occasions and the associated products pretty much sell themselves. A pile of barbecue charcoal can sell burgers, and a secondary display of mother’s day cards promotes flowers and chocolates.

Adjacencies: This sends many a buyer in to a space defence frenzy! When you physically locate all the products needed to create an occasion together (and that’s the key), shoppers will buy the occasion. A DVD, bottle of wine and box of chocolates will always sell as a collective ‘night in’ occasion.

Branded displays: We’re bored with the same old, same old. But provide us with something different in-store, surprise us with something that isn't a promotional ticket on a cream shelf and we’ll re-engage, and buy. For evidence, just look at the popularity of the ‘treasure hunters’ paradise in Aldi – I'm referring to the central aisle full of all sorts of different products. Shoppers love it. They just don’t know what to expect from one week to the next.

Plus one merchandising: This is simply strategically locating products that encourage shoppers buying one item to buy one more. Cheddar plus a special cheese or biscuits plus a treat. But for this to work, you have to make the ‘plus one’ items stand out: Visually differentiate them. Put the ‘special cheeses’ in unique displays, present the treat biscuits in a different way to all the rest. If you want evidence of a successful ‘plus one’ strategy, look at meal deals: 3 or even 4 items bought together at a lower cost than if they were each bought individually.

In summary, supermarkets lack emotional cues, even though they have been proven to sell a lot more stuff. Communicating occasions sells, but requires… ...communication, and that’s not always corporate! Creative adjacencies can sell occasions, but that needs somebody somewhere to give up some space. Branded displays disrupt shoppers and break them out of their shopping ‘coma’. But most stores have a clear floor policy nowadays. Finally, Plus one merchandising increases average sales values, but requires visual differentiation, ooh, er!

The point I'm making is that all of these types of initiative used to be commonplace. But that was in the days when stores were more sales focussed and less controlled by the buying function.

The future of bricks and mortar grocery sales may just lie in the past. Hmm, something to think about.

About Phillip Adcock

My name is Phillip Adcock: I have more than 30 years of human behavioural research and analysis, and have developed a unique ability to identify what it is that makes people psychologically and physiologically 'tick'.

Would you like to know more about how shoppers and consumers think? Download my FREE guide now. Alternatively, check out www.adcocksolutions.com, where there are more FREE downloads available there. Or why not simply email me with what's on your mind?

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Phillip Adcock
Psychology & Behaviour
Change Consultant

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