Supermarkets are very clever at convincing you to part with your money. It’s their job. They have years of data that shows them, in fact, proves to them – the best ways to sell food.
It’s no coincidence that you see certain specials, deals and discounts frequent our local shelves. It’s because they work. They move product and sell food.
For those readers who remember, I wrote an article previously about the 10 shopping tactics that supermarkets use to make us spend more money. Some loved it, totally agreeing and realizing that for years they had probably over spent due to such tactics.
Others, however, thought I was a conspiracy nut, probably writing this blog from my bedroom with a tin foil hat to stop supermarkets reading my mind.
Either way, it made people realize that heavy thinking goes into retailing and making consumers buy.
Now today I want to talk about something similar. I want to dissect some of the marketing tactics that supermarkets use to disguise value, increase the perception of getting a deal and how they make us feel like we are always getting a bargain (when really we are not).
Here are the 8 most frequent supermarket marketing tactics that are used to give the illusion of value,
8. Never ending sales and year round sale signs
How often do you see signs for a sale, that are up all year round? Much like a Persian rug store, they forever seem to have year round sales.
While the sales are legit, it is often big signage, TV ads and press for a sale that probably doesn’t cover many products.
It’s the old bait and switch technique. Discount a few products so you can scream about sales, followed by increase foot traffic into the store that buy products that aren’t actually on sale.
7. Comparing products to other stores
Ever seen a product comparison in a supermarket, stating that a product is 25% cheaper? Often a supermarket will advertise or compare their product to a store, or recommended retail price that is already high.
So while the store can talk percentages, they are really actually pointless. As we, as consumers, would never have considered the product at its original price.
Also, as online shopping starts to take off, there really is no excuse for a retail store to not competitively/fairly price their stock. Otherwise, we should simply buy elsewhere.
6. Buy one, get one free – or the two for one.
Unless you had already planned to buy the item, this isn’t really a perk. It’s like needing one can of paint to re-do your bedroom, but you get given two. Yes it may feel like value, though now what are you going to do with the second one?
So if you honestly don’t need the item, buying it due to a 2-4-1 special really isn’t smart.
5. The word special now means nothing
Just because something is listed as a special, does it really make it so? It’s like when you go out to dinner, a menu item may be listed as a special year round. Does that really make it special? Or is it simply an objective use of the word special? Consider this next time you see a sign when shopping that alludes to the word special.
4. Grocery unit pricing – bigger doesn’t always mean better
Sometimes to really catch you out, supermarkets switch around the prices – making it cheaper to buy small quantities of an item rather than large quantities. The polar opposite of how our brain is trained to shop. In fact, I have written many articles on grocery unit pricing as a way to stop this. You know, the little cost per unit in the corner of the grocery items tag? This can give you real indications on value.
A trick however that some stores have reported to use is this. One product may give you a cost per sheet for say toilet paper. The other product will give you a cost per 5 sheets, or similar, as a way to make it harder to distinguish value. This is rare these days though.
3. Entry level pricing, eventually raising higher
Another marketing tactic that supermarkets use is to make a product cheaper when it enters the market, so as to get you to try it, use it and build it into your routine.
Then once the product has proved itself, it is eventually raised higher in price.
This happened to me with my local supermarket. The opportunistic owners of a small corner store noticed that they sold a hell of a lot of a particular brand of dog food (me buying 14 cans a week for my Border Collies) and all of a sudden, that particular can was 50 cents more than the others. Strange huh?
2. Serving sizes and packages get smaller
You might see an item is suddenly cheaper. The package is the same looking size and you must be getting value.
WRONG! Perhaps they went from 50grams to 40 grams without you knowing? Think chip packets and other similar products. This is how companies manage to keep prices the same to avoid consumer backlash – they may not go up, but the quantity or perhaps quality might slightly go down.
1. Saying ‘up to 50% off’
This doesn’t mean the things you want are going to be 50% off. It means the can of Mexican hot dog flavoured baked beans that never sold a single can are 50% off, while your staples are likely the same price. It’s another form of bait and switch and something savvy shoppers are aware of.