From the pleasant music to the choice of floor tiles, retail stores are cleverly designed to do one thing: make you spend money. Here are some of the marketing tactics you should know about so you can shop with a clear head.
Photo by Joseph Thornton
A retailer's store environment is almost never arbitrary. Perhaps nowhere is this more true than at the Apple Store, where every detail is well thought out. The laptop screens are all adjusted precisely to the same exact 70 degree angle — not just for uniformity and aesthetics, but, according to Forbes, to get you to adjust the screen — touch the computer and get engaged with it.
Studies have shown that people are more likely to buy products if they touch them. To create an "ownership experience" and more brand loyalty with customers, the Apple Store encourages customers to start using any device as they want in the store, and even the trainers in "One to One" workshops don't touch the computer, but instead guide you to find your own solutions.
Other more or less subtle tactics are used by other retailers. Men's Health lists a bunch of marketing manoeuvres and store design choices that are designed to manipulate us. In the US, Bloomingdale's numerous restaurants send pleasant aromas throughout the store, increasing the amount of time customers shop and making them about 35 per cent more likely to spend money, according to the article. Men's dressing room doors and ceilings are unusually high to convey a sense of power to guys and make them buy more clothing. An unusual atmosphere with a lot of props in some stores (down to the employee wearing what looks to be a backstage pass) is meant to make you feel like you're part of a special club.
Sometimes retailers use the "compromise-price effect" to get you to pay more for a better item. They'll place a relatively expensive item (eg, a camera) next to one that's priced out of reach for most people, persuading you to buy the cheaper one — even though it's still expensive. Or they'll place a cheap item no one would buy next to the one they want you to buy, according to Smart Money.
Even supermarkets are designed like an obstacle course, with pre-made desserts and candy blocking your path at every turn and higher-priced items stocked at eye level.
Your best defence is to go shopping with a plan and budget in mind, and know as many of these retailer tricks as possible (hit up the links above). Knowing that electronics stores crank up the lighting levels in stores to trick you, for example, you can work around it. Men's Health suggests playing spot-the-retail-theatrics when you shop:
"It's a lot harder to be fooled when you're making a game out of spotting this stuff," says Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal, PhD, author of The Willpower Instinct. "It sounds simple, but people report a lot of success when they go out like detectives looking for gimmicks."
Know of any other retailer ploys? Share them in the comments.