Did you ever walk into the supermarket to buy milk and come out with a basket full of stuff you didn’t even know you needed? Have you noticed how, in Coles Daylesford, the bread and vegies are at one end of the store and dairy items are at the other?

Welcome to supermarket consumer behaviour, where supermarkets implement strategies to get consumers to buy more items unknowingly.

Australia is currently experiencing one of the worst cost of living crises recorded according to recent data from the Australia Bureau of Statistics. Chocoholics are appalled that the price of chocolate is up by 27% over the past year

With high inflation rates and stagnant wages, there is no doubt that working Australians are “very price conscious”, says Professor Nitika Garg, School of Marketing at UNSW Business School.

Rising inflation and increasing costs are impacting everyone in the supply chain, from manufacturers to retailers, and are then being passed on to consumers. Consequently, prices are a lot higher than they were a few months ago. How can consumers cope with these escalating costs and price hikes in the current economic climate?

According to Professor Garg, there are some key tactics to watch out for when supermarket shopping. She says that these tricks are all based on consumer psychology, designed to trigger reminder or impulse purchases for the consumer.

  1. Locked-in deals: These are commonly identified by bright red labels on items and typically present a capped price until a specified date. Consumers may be misled into believing that purchasing the item before the deadline offers greater cost-effectiveness due to the deal. However, the price of the locked-in deals is often the same as the original price of the item.

  1. Store layout: Supermarkets design the layout of the store to purposely put staple foods such as milk and bread far away from each other – and usually at the back of the store. This tactic is designed to make a consumer walk through the store and spend more time.

  1. Bigger-sized carts: Studies in the USA have shown that some trolley sizes in supermarkets have doubled in size since first being introduced. This has resulted in consumers typically buying 40 per cent more food items. The idea behind this is that consumers are tricked into thinking their shopping trolley appears to be missing food items.

  1. Music: Have you ever wondered why supermarkets typically play more relaxed, slow-paced music instead of fast and upbeat tunes? It’s not a coincidence. Supermarkets strategically choose calming music to create a relaxed atmosphere and encourage customers to stay longer, enhancing their shopping experience and getting them to buy more.

  1. Store deals: the ‘buy two, get one free’ deals and similar schemes may initially appear as an excellent opportunity and a cost-effective method of saving money if it’s an item you buy regularly. However, if it’s an item that has a short expiry date, is it realistic that a consumer will consume all three items before the expiry date? Furthermore, certain supermarkets show, for example, ‘buy two for $10.00’, making it appear as a deal and misleading the consumer by implying that you are saving on cost. However, upon closer inspection, you might find that the price of one item is just its regular price, that is, half of the price of two.