Can Supermarkets Influence What You Purchase?

The answer is yes, supermarkets can influence you on what you purchase once you’re inside.
When did you last walk into a shop for just a pint of milk or a loaf of bread, yet you left with bags full of groceries and items you didn’t really want or need to purchase?  Probably not so long ago, and it happens for a reason.  The way we shop is more predictable than you might think, supermarkets have experts working for them that take full advantage of this and will influence you on the way they direct you around the shops, positioning of the aisles to placement of the products they place on the shelves and if it should be at eye level or not, we will go into further detail on this in this article.

Since supermarkets very first appeared in our UK towns and cities, the owners of the big supermarkets have been monitoring the way we shop.  Since then they have tailored their shop layouts and shelving systems accordingly to our movements, making it easier for them to influence us on how we spend our money.  With the rise of discount stores and online shopping and the increasing desire for convenience, this has changed the way we all shop.

With competitors such as Aldi and Lidl the other big supermarkets have had to drastically reconsider their techniques, there are now more convenience style shops that are aimed towards our fast-paced lifestyles such as Tesco express for example.  These fast convenience shops stock essential items, making it easier for the us to run in, grab what we need and go.

Supermarket Goals.

A supermarket’s goal is to make sure its customers feel comfortable and happy to spend their money.  With all of what the supermarkets have learnt over the years from constantly monitoring our shopping behaviour, they know how to encourage our spending, and they have several tactics they use to help encourage us to spend more money whilst we shop.

There are three crucial elements to a shopper’s experience: TIME, MONEY, and ANXIETY.
The less anxious the customer feels, the least amount of time they have to spend inside of the shop, and the more money they save, the happier the customer will feel.  This also means the customer will be more satisfied with the overall experience.  If a supermarket can achieve this goal, they know that they have a higher chance of repeat business.

Lady pushing a shopping cart in the supermarket.


Making an Entrance.

The first thing you’ll face when you arrive in a supermarket is how they have laid it out.  As we enter a supermarket we are faced with what they call the “Decompression Zone” this is usually a set of automatic sliding doors, one on the outside of the building and another on the inside, this causes us to naturally slow down before entering the shop.  Other shops will have a large open area with a few offers on display or a newspaper stand in the middle, again giving us a few seconds to slow down and distract us before heading down the aisles.

The location of certain food aisles to the way certain shelves have been arranged, each shop has meticulously placed each of these shelves and aisles where they are for a reason.
As the customer, we need to be able to find what we want and waste less time looking for it to feel satisfied.

“Ease is Paramount for Convenience”

Non-food aisles are placed in the centre of discount shops.  These aisles act as a psychological trigger to slow us down and browse.  These aisles are also a very effective way for the supermarkets to get you to part ways with your money on items you never intended to purchase when entering the supermarket, usually labelled with banners that state “Big Savings” or “Limited Time Only Offers” to create a slight feel of urgency and pressure to buy the item you don’t really need or at least never intended to purchase when you were only out for a pint of milk and a loaf of bread.

The Secrets of Shelf Stacking.

When we shop and we know what we are looking for we will automatically start at eye level, and will only scan up and down if we haven’t found what we’re looking for.
Generally, supermarkets cater to this by splitting items into three categories “good, better & best”.  By default, the supermarkets will place the cheapest “good” products on the bottom shelves, they are slightly awkward to reach and they aren’t as profitable.  The easy to access middle shelf will contain the “better” products, this is a high-volume area, it is were our eyes naturally go and therefore Is home to the big brands and mid-range own brand items.  Own brands products are generally more profitable to the supermarkets, therefore they will encourage you to choose them over branded items.
Premium products will sit on the top shelves, these are what are known as “best” products.  Our eyes don’t naturally track upwards, but customers who are in the market for these will actively seek them out, and won’t need to be as obviously placed or as easy to find.

What We Know.

Supermarkets want you to spend more money in their shops, now you are aware of the way they place things in the supermarkets and know what they are getting up to, you can shop with more awareness.  While some psychological triggers are hard to fight, knowing the reasons behind them could help you make your shopping a little less predictable.

If you are looking for products to help influence your customers into purchasing from you, or for display solutions we have a wide range of products to help. Visit our website today at or give us a call on 01353 665141 and a member of our team will be happy to help you.