The Grocery Game

Supermarket Sales Strategy Tricks That You Fall For

Supermarket Sales Strategy Tricks You Fall For

Money Talks – Money Walks – Money Aftershock

You don’t think a supermarket has a sales strategy that impacts the way you grocery shop but you may be surprised to find out you’ve been sucked in without even knowing it.

Grocery shopping is about saving money for us because that’s what Canadians want.

However, for retailers they have a sales strategy grabs your attention the moment you watch or read any media and one hundred times more when you visit the grocery store.

Whether you fall for these marketing and sales strategy tactics depends on your awareness as a consumer of how scientific a supermarket is run.

Today I want to share with you all the ways supermarkets use a sales strategy to get you to spend more money even before you step foot through the doors or even order groceries online.

Grocery Store Sales Strategy 101

Marketing is not a one size fits all topic but in a nutshell, a sales strategy is to get customers to spend money.

What is a marketing strategy?

Marketing strategies used by supermarkets are huge and well thought out plans to encourage customers to visit and spend more than they bargained for.

They are in the business to sell and make money after all and you’re in the business to save money.

At the grocery store level brand marketing and sales strategy fall into the same picture where the manufacturer wants their products seen by the customers and the supermarket wants to sell the product to earn money.

Essentially marketing is an overall sales strategy from the time the product is introduced to the supermarket until the time a customer pays and walks out the door.

If this happens then the marketing strategy of the product worked whether it be from packaging, shelf visuals, signage, sales, coupons, samples or other media attention the product has been given.

  • Does the product taste good?
  • Does the product work?

You will only know if you buy it, sample it or perhaps have been told it’s a delicious item or works like a charm.

The good news is customers can almost always return a product if they are not satisfied however manufacturers and supermarkets bet on most customers not returning to get their money back when not satisfied.

It’s not as if businesses set out to make or sell a product that is horrible as that’s far from the truth but marketing tricks are everywhere and consumers, YOU are the TARGET.

The food retail industry comprises of food sold at food and beverage retailers such as supermarkets and grocery stores, convenience stores, mass merchandisers and specialty stores.

In Canada, retail sales of food and beverage stores amounted to over 120 billion Canadian dollars in 2017. In the 2017/18 financial year, the majority of food retailer sales were made in Loblaw Companies Ltd. stores, with sales reaching around 32.47 billion Canadian dollars. Source: Food Retail in Canada

Money Talks, Money Walks and Money Aftershock

This is how I like to describe having money in your pocket and keeping it there.

Spending the money and then being upset or shocked at how much you spent when you didn’t intend too.

It happens to everyone whether we want to believe it or not.

The reason behind this is that the sales strategy of every business can be compelling based on how they follow-through pitching their products to you.

Large Shopping Carts- Sales Strategy 1

Imagine what your shopping experience would be like without a grocery cart or shopping basket.

Now ask yourself how that would impact your overall shopping experience and grocery budget?

  • Would you spend less?
  • How would you spend more?
  • Could You handle shopping more often?

Some grocery stores offer two sizes of shopping carts like Zehrs for example which I love because you don’t always need a large one and carrying a basket might not be ideal for everyone.

Costco by far has the largest shopping carts but that’s intentional as they sell everything in Bulk which means large-sized packaging.

If you have a look at the shopping carts they are now designed with a sales strategy in mind from the beverage holder to the different levels of storage.

When it comes to grocery shopping, Millennials have an above average basket size in Canada at 55.45 Canadian dollars,.

However, Baby Boomers have a below average basket size. Source: Statistica

Put it this way, a grocery cart is like a pantry or kitchen cupboard.

The sales strategy allows for baskets to be placed anywhere they can around the shopping cart.

Ideally, the more you can fit in your shopping cart, the more you will spend.

Food Samples – Sales Strategy 2

One taste and you’re sold and I’m not kidding when I say so many people fall for this.

I know some of you may like the idea of free samples so you can try a product before buying it.

This saves you money because you aren’t buying something you haven’t tried before.

Then again, how often do you try every product in your shopping cart?

You don’t always know if you will like something.

Marketing plans also know that the customer eating food spikes insulin levels and makes people crave more so they buy more.

That’s the sales strategy behind free food samples at the supermarket especially Costco where consumers flock for tastes of products.

Is it worth it for the manufacturer? Of course!

Is it worth it for the supermarket? You bet!

Feed a customer especially a hungry one and you can bet their hands will pick up that product and put it in their shopping cart even if it’s not on their grocery list or meal plan for the week.

Coupons – Sales Strategy 3

Coupons sell products and that’s a fact. It’s a massive sales strategy that has swept over Canada and the USA and continues to be a high roller in the game of marketing.

Moving from free food samples to coupon savings always sweetens the deal.

This is just another sales strategy to push customers in the direction of purchasing products they never intended to buy.

Another thing to consider is that you may walk into a grocery store and find coupons for products that are on sale and NOT on your grocery list and then purchase them anyways.

The smart shopper will hang on to coupons to pair with an upcoming sale that fits their grocery budget or meal plan.

However, others might jump on a deal because it’s happening the moment they find the coupon even it’s not part of their plan.

That’s us and it works like a charm let me tell you but beware you could end up spending more than you anticipated.

Why would any consumer pass up a deal on a product that they normally buy what’s on sale and now they’ve found a coupon for?

Seems too good to be true but again that’s the marketing and sales strategy doing its job.

Related: Where to find the best Canadian Coupons

In-Store Specials – Sales Strategy 4

From an extra product that the grocery store received to push the product that they want to offer their most prized customers is all part of a supermarket sales strategy.

I find this type of deal belongs to the top customers who come through the door and is a way for the store to say, “We Value Your Business” so just for stopping by we want to offer you this deal.

It may be a lucrative deal that you can’t pass up and they know it so it’s a marketing plan that is created based on shopping habits and the day of the week.

Impulse Products At Cash – Sales Strategy 5

If you have kids then you know how bad this can be for adding extra expenses to your grocery bill.

Even if you don’t have kids with you or have any at all impulse buying at the cash register from chocolate bars to magazines.

These products have huge price increases or even what seems to be a deal or special that can add to the mental stress of grocery shopping on a budget.

Just say no and turn your attention to the cashier and watch the prices being rung in and review your receipt before you leave. Distractions from this perspective work.

We also allow our son to help put the groceries on the belt and push the button at the end to allow the products to be bagged.

It’s a fun experience the kids love and turns their attention away from the impulse products offered at the cash.

Marketing Signs – Sales Strategy 6

Next to supermarket layout marketing signs are one of the next biggest ways they can gain attention prompting customers to spend more on deals that might not be on their shopping list.

Signage starts outside the store and works it’s way indoors. Have a look around the next time you visit a store just to see how a store markets even just 1 product or sale to encourage you to shop.

It might even be a banner sign such as Walmart “Save Money Live Better” which to someone who has never been to this store would assume that prices are reasonable and for the frugal-minded.

If you go into a supermarket with a shopping plan leave with your plan.

Although we struggle with this in our family it’s a good reminder to help keep food costs low.

Bulk Food Shopping – Sales Strategy 7

Buy more eat or drink more is the way bulk food shopping is supposed to be marketed.

Just like buying in bulk at Costco the same premises applies at Bulk stores.

When customers buy in bulk they eat in bulk.

However, some people buy in bulk so they don’t have product hanging around too long.

There are benefits to buying as much or little of a product that you need.

The con is the price you will pay which is not always the best price.

Bulk shopping can be anything from buying deals that require you to buy more than 1 product to get a special price to buy larger quantity packaged products.

Check and know your prices before you buy anything for your grocery budget.

Related: Is a Costco membership worth the money?

Colours and Smells – Sales Strategy 8

Everything from showering customers with the power of colour and organization when they walk through the supermarket doors into the land of Produce to the sweet and savoury smells of a bakery all lends a hand in the sales strategy.

Stop for a moment and make a mental note of all the grocery stores you go to.

Think about what the first section is you see when you walk through the door.

Most of you will say the produce section and that’s because it’s a happy, colourful space full of healthy fruits and vegetables.

It’s made to give you that boost of confidence before you venture into the convenience pre-packaged land.

Fancy Packaging is another sales strategy to capture the attention of consumers because we begin the eating process with our eyes.

Splashy packages with colours or unique packages draw customers attention thus potential sales.

Free WiFi – Sales Strategy 9

This might sound daft but free wifi is a big deal at not only the grocery store but it’s a huge sales strategy just about everywhere we shop in Canada today.

The idea is that if the customers have access to free wifi they may spend more time in the grocery store.

This marketing strategy banks on customers buying more food or product.

It may also allow them to log in to the store’s website to learn more about sales and products.

WiFi marketing is when retailers provide wireless internet access to shoppers and then use that as a channel to communicate messages and promotions.

It’s just one of the many ways that physical retailers are embracing the digital world — and creating a multichannel experience for their shoppers in the process. Source

Lounge and Eating Area – Sales Strategy 10

One of the most sought after areas in a supermarket is the bathroom.

You will almost always find a customer bathroom located in every store.

If a customer has to run out to go to the bathroom somewhere else the odds are they aren’t coming back or will go to another supermarket.

You may also find lounge areas with televisions, cozy couches and tables.

Look around and you may find benches for customers who want to take a break, eat something, feed kids or wait while someone else is grocery shopping.

These perks whether high-end or basic offer customers leisure and convenience that will get them in the store and out of the store with confidence.

I remember when our son was a baby going to Zehrs was a big deal for us because they had the couches and lounge area with the big bathrooms.

Any time we needed to take a break with our son it made for a far better shopping experience.

Of course, this falls under the sales strategy of catering to the needs of customers.

  • Not all parents can leave their children at home
  • Not everyone wants to or can grocery shop so sit-down area ideal (My FIL struggled to walk far with his heart condition but liked to get out. An area for him to sit down to take a break while his wife continued to grocery shop made it ideal for both of them.)
  • Bathrooms are essential

You may pay more money for these conveniences based on which Canadian grocery store you shop at.

Almost all will have some sort of way you can get through your grocery list with ease.

YOU are their bread and butter.

Multi-buy or Buy One Get One Free Sales – Sales Strategy 11

It’s easy to understand how customers can fall into the Buy One Get One Free (BOGO) or Buy 10 for $10 deal.

Ask yourself;

  • Can we eat the product before expiry?
  • Do we need the product?
  • Is it on the grocery list?
  • Is it really a deal? Check prices on the shelf of similar product.
  • Do you really need to buy that many to get a deal? Often the regular price is $1 but a similar sales strategy is to get the consumer to buy more.

Limited Time Offers – Sales Strategy 12

This may be one of my biggest pet peeves at the grocery store.

I do realize that it gets customers through the door on specific days mainly on the weekend.

It just sucks if you have to work weekends and can’t take advantage of the deals.

You might notice your grocery flyer has a limited offer for three days only and the prices are amazing.

It may only be three products they market but they are likely high sales items that draw customers into the store.

With a sense of urgency, customers will do whatever they can to purchase these products before they run out or the deal is done.

Grocery Store Layout Change – Sales Strategy 13

There is psychology surrounding a grocery store layout change.

The downside is that not every customer falls into the same category although almost all supermarkets follow a similar pattern.

This idea is to create a flow where the customer shops seamlessly throughout the store spending money.

In most cases customers tend to buy more than they intended to.

No surprise there.

Increasing sales volume means the supermarket must cater to the customer.

Retailers will do whatever they can to track shopping trends of individual shoppers using points rewards cards, surveillance video, receipts right up into computer technology.

This all has to do with supermarket sales marketing and it’s nationwide which means you may often see a layout change however it doesn’t deviate much from the original.

It’s a basic means of getting you to feel like your store is putting effort into bringing you a new, fresh shopping experience.

It’s like adding new furniture or just moving furniture around your living room to give it that “new” appeal.

It brings happiness into your life until you get bored with the look again at which time you’ll do it all over again.

Friends of ours used to laugh because every time they would visit we would have our couch in a different spot.

Thinking back it was because it became a way to invite change without spending money.

Calming Music and Relaxed Lighting- Sales Strategy 14

I often find the produce and bakery section to always have the dim lighting as it relaxes customers which allows them to shop freely and with calmness.

When shoppers take their time they tend to see more and possibly buy more which is the name of the game.

Relaxing the supermarket environment with dim lighting and slow music allows people to tune into the experience of grocery shopping forgetting the outside world.

The type or genre of music being played may also motivate shoppers to purchase more expensive products depending on the mood they are in.

For example, a 1993 study found that when classical music went head-to-head with pop music in a gourmet wine shop, classical won out. Customers bought more expensive wine with the classical music, enjoying the upscale, sophisticated vibe.

Keep in mind, they didn’t buy MORE wine, just more expensive wine. The difference being (according to the study) that while genre impacts bottom lines in an impactful and measurable way, unlike the other criteria above, it doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in the quantity of sales, but rather in purchasing more expensive items. – Source: The Science of Grocery Store Music

Next time see if you can catch yourself singing to the music or even aware what songs are playing.

If you can then the marketing and sales strategy is working.

High Priced Eye Level Products – Sales Strategy 15

Although I’m 6 feet tall my eyes automatically hit the middle rows of the grocery store shelves whether I like it or not.

It’s from that point that I have to train my brain to look down below and up high to compare prices and search for similar products that cost less.

Most companies that have the big bucks will land the middle shelf which helps promote their product and of course sells far more than being on the top or the bottom.

The idea of this sales strategy is that lots of people won’t bend over or look up so if you can land that middle shelf you are almost guaranteed to sell your product.

Even unsuspecting frugal shoppers can fall into a shelving trap if they are side-tracked so beware.

Grocery Store Rewards Cards or Credit Cards – Sales Strategy 16

This is my final supermarket trick and a big one because grocery rewards are huge whether it be from your Canadian credit card company or a supermarket rewards point card like PC Optimum.

The minute you update your coupon app on your phone or other computer device you fall into a sales strategy to get you into the store.

The ploy might be offering you deals or points when you buy certain products which might not even be on sale however you’ll get points.

If you can pair a points deal with a credit card offer, coupon, sales price and price match then perhaps it’s a safe way to save more money.

This would be the optimal and ideal way to get the best bang for your buck at the grocery store but not all stores offer the full line-up apart from No Frills and Wal-Mart in Canada. (leave me a comment if you know of a store that does)

Just be aware that you might buy something just because you get points and that might not be the best deal going.

Overall, the supermarket sales strategy is there to offer you a pleasant experience from the most expensive grocery stores in Canada to the cheapest grocery stores in Canada.

It’s up to you how you handle their marketing plan and whether it costs you more money in the long run for your grocery shopping experience.

Discussion: Can you think of another sales strategy a supermarket uses to trick customers into spending more money?

For all the BEST Canadian Grocery Shopping Blog Posts with links to Money Savings and More check out my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide.

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  1. Like ‘couponing’ ‘reduced’ items are yet another way of getting you through the door. The way to save money is to reduce the frequency of your supermarket shops as much as possible. Did you know that 40% of your supermarket purchases are impulse buys? Refrigerate and freeze as much as possible, use tins, dried goods and UHT as much as possible. Try and resist the urge to have something ‘fresh’ as long as possible. Pretend you live up the Yukon river and it is a 200 mile round trip by canoe to get supplies. – like once a month or once a year. Stop thinking you are clever enough to ‘beat’ the supermarket at their own game – you sure ain’t! Why do you think they keep feeding us those ‘tricks of the supermarket’ tidbits? Thanks for listening and happy shopping. Anna

  2. Like ‘couponing’ ‘reduced’ items are yet another way of getting you through the door. The way to save money is to reduce the frequency of your supermarket shops as much as possible. Did you know that 40% of your supermarket purchases are impulse buys? Refrigerate and freeze as much as possible, use tins, dried goods and UHT as much as possible. Try and resist the urge to have something ‘fresh’ as long as possible. Pretend you live up the Yukon river and it is a 200 mile round trip to get supplies. – like once a month or once a year. Stop thinking you are clever enough to ‘beat’ the supermarket at their own game – you sure ain’t! Why do you think they keep feeding us those ‘tricks of the supermarket’ tidbits? Thanks for listening and happy shopping. Anna

    1. Hi Anna,
      Interesting approach. Would you share how you grocery shop and what goes into your frual savings plan for groceries. I’d be interested in knowing. I understand what you just mentioned but would love to know how you make it all work for your family. 🙂

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