Supermarket Sales Strategy Tricks You Fall For

Estimated reading time: 14 minutes

You’re mistaken if you don’t think a supermarket’s sales strategy impacts your grocery shopping.

Canadian grocery stores apply marketing and advertising techniques to help drive traffic and increase the retention of their customers.

For any business to be successful, marketing and advertising are worth their weight in gold, especially word of mouth.

There’s more to this topic, so I want to look at various ways we spend money grocery shopping.

We often spend without knowing why we bought something until we get home.

Supermarket Sales Strategy Tricks You Fall For
Supermarket Sales Strategy Tricks You Fall For

Money Talks – Money Walks – Money Aftershock

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

However, retailers have a sales strategy that grabs your attention when you tap into media and one hundred times more when you visit the grocery store.

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

Today, I want to share with you all how supermarkets use a sales strategy to get you to spend more money before you enter the doors or even order groceries online.

Grocery Store Sales Strategy 101

What is a sales strategy?

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?

Supermarket marketing strategies encourage customers to visit and spend more than they bargained for.

After all, they are in the business to sell and make money, and you’re in the industry to save money.

At the grocery store level, brand marketing and sales strategy fall into the same picture: 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 when the product is introduced to the supermarket until a customer pays and walks out the door.

If this happens, the product’s marketing strategy works, whether 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 that customers can almost always return a product if they are unsatisfied.

However, when unsatisfied, manufacturers and supermarkets bet on customers not returning to get their money back.

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

Using this analogy, I like to describe having money in your pocket and keeping it there.

“It’s all about how much money you save.”

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

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 with 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.

Ask 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, 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 most prominent shopping carts, but that’s intentional as they sell everything in bulk, which means large-sized Packaging.

Related: Is a Costco membership worth the hype?

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

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 baskets to be placed anywhere around the shopping cart.

Ideally, the more you fit in your shopping cart, the more you 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.

Some of you may like the idea of free samples to try a product before buying it.

Doing so 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?

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 new 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 they will put it in their shopping cart. Even if it’s not on their grocery list, it tasted so good it was hard to pass up.

Customers who get a taste might also feel obligated to at least buy the product that once.

If you are this person, steer clear of the food testing booths.

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 marketing.

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

This is another sales strategy to push customers to purchase products they never intended.

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 savvy 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 when they find the coupon, even if 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 they usually buy that’s on sale, and now they’ve found a coupon?

It seems too good to be accurate, but the marketing and sales strategy is doing its job again.

Related: Where to find the best Canadian Coupons

In-Store Specials – Sales Strategy 4

The grocery store receives a different product to push the effect that they want to offer their most prized customers is 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 you can’t pass up, and they know it, so it’s a marketing plan 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 impulse buying at the cash register, from chocolate bars to magazines.

There is a big reason grocery stores have convenience products such as chocolate bars, gum, gift cards, magazines, pop, juice, etc.

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, turn your attention to the cashier, watch the prices rung in, and review your receipt before leaving—distractions from this perspective work.

We allow our son to help put the groceries on the belt and push the button to assist in bagging the groceries.

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 most significant ways to gain attention, prompting customers to spend more on deals that might not be on their shopping lists.

Signage starts outside the store and works its way indoors.

Have a look around the next time you visit a store 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’s “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 an excellent reminder to help keep food costs low.

Bulk Food Shopping – Sales Strategy 7

Buy more, eat or drink more is how Bulk food shopping is supposed to be marketed.

Like buying in Bulk at Costco, the same premises apply at Bulk stores.

When customers buy in Bulk, they eat in Bulk.

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

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

The con is your price, which is not always the best price.

Bulk shopping can be anything from deals that require you to buy more than 1 product to getting a special price to buy a larger quantity of 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

Showering customers with colour and organization at the supermarket doors is only the beginning.

As customers enter the produce department, the bakery’s sweet and savory smells begin the sales process by vision and smell.

Stop for a moment and mentally note all the grocery stores you visit.

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

Most shoppers 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 pre-packaged convenience land.

Fancy Packaging is another sales strategy to capture consumers’ attention 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

These days, free WiFi is a big deal for consumers all over Canada who want free access to the internet when they shop.

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

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

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.

Whether high-end or essential, these perks offer customers leisure and convenience to keep them in and out of the store confidently.

When our son was a baby, going to Zehrs was a big deal for us because they had couches and a lounge area with big bathrooms.

Whenever we needed a break with our son, it made for a far better shopping experience.

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

  • Not all parents can leave their children at home.
  • Bathrooms are essential for employee and customer service.
  • Not everyone wants to or can grocery shop, so a sit-down area is ideal

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

Almost all will have some easy way to get through your grocery list.

Customers are their bread and butter, and in a competitive market, the little things matter.

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

It’s easy to understand how customers fall for the Buy One Get One Free (BOGO) or buy more, save more deals.

Ask yourself;

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

Limited Time Offers – Sales Strategy 12

Limited-time offers may be one of my biggest pet peeves at the grocery store.

I realize it gets customers through the door on specific days, mainly weekends.

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 fantastic.

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 finished.

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 creates a flow where customers shop seamlessly throughout the store, spending money.

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

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

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

Advertising and marketing tactics are everywhere, but things can get messy when tracking customers without permission.

Related: Tim Hortons Canada Settles Multiple Location Tracking Lawsuits

Tim Hortons wants to give you free coffee and doughnuts to apologize for tracking your location without your permission.

Supermarket sales marketing is nationwide, so you may often see a layout change; however, it doesn’t deviate much from the original.

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

Adding or moving furniture around your living room gives it that “new” appeal.

It brings happiness into your life until you get bored with the look when you do it all over again.

Our friends used to laugh because every time they visited, 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 have dim lighting as it relaxes customers, allowing them to shop freely and calmly.

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

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

The genre of music being played may also motivate shoppers to purchase more expensive products depending on their mood.

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 being aware of 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.\

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 with money will land on the middle shelf, which helps promote their product and sell far more than at the top or the bottom.

The idea of this sales strategy is that many 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

My final supermarket trick, and a big one, is because grocery rewards are enormous, whether from your Canadian credit card company or a supermarket rewards point card like PC Optimum.

When you update your coupon app on your phone or another computer device, you fall into a sales strategy to get you into the store.

The ploy might offer deals or points when you buy certain products that might not even be on sale; however, you’ll get points.

If you can pair 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.

However, unlike No Frills and Wal-Mart in Canada, not all stores offer the full line-up.

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

Overall, the supermarket sales strategy offers 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 for your grocery shopping experience in the long run.

Have Your Say

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

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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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