Beating Retailers at Their Own Game
You walk into a store, browse the shelves, pick what you want and pay for it. Shopping seems simple enough, right? But retailers have tricks up their sleeves to make us buy certain things that we consumers don't even know about. That's according to Martin Lindstrom, author of "Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy." The book is based on several years of research and Lindstrom's background as a marketing and advertising advisor to the retail world. I asked him to give Shop To It some tips on how we should shop. Here's what he had to say:
Tip #1: Leave the kids at home when you shop. Retailers will gear more and more of their advertising toward parents with children. Why? Because kids influence 80 percent of their parents' buying habits, say Lindstrom. It's not just candy and toys either. Lindstrom says kids have the power to influence which cars and houses we buy. "We do know today if you bring your kid with you into a retailer, you are likely to buy up to 30 percent more," Lindstrom added. "It's worth it for the retailers but not for the consumer."
Tip #2: Rediscover the forgotten art of shopping lists. Lindstrom says consumers have stopped making lists of the things they need to buy before they leave the house. He says we must get back to making lists and actually sticking to them. You can even give yourself a rule to buy one extra thing off the list but otherwise, stick with it. And while you're at it, buy the cheapest of the categories you've put on the list. "Sticking to a list and buying the cheapest of those categoies will result in 35 to 45 percent in savings," he says.
Tip #3: Don't fall for free, exclusive offers. Lindstrom says retailers, especially those with high-end brands, will increasingly start offering limited edition, free gifts with a certain purchase. We've seen this for years with department store make-up offers but those types of offers will spill into other categories. "Retailers are going to throw in free stuff instead of discounting the brand," he says. A good consumer will ask themselves if they really need the item and its free gift before they buy it.
Tip #4: Don't let retailers scare you. They will increasingly use fear to get you buy their stuff, Lindstrom says. Everything from pharmaceuticals to toothpaste will be advertised as saving your life, playing on fears that tend to be more heightened during a recession. "As long as you're aware of it, you're not that vulnerable," he says.
Tip #5: Make a calculator your best friend, especially when you go to the grocery store. This will help consumers keep track of what they're buying between the time they enter the grocery store and the hour or so later when they leave. Grocery shopping is one of the few shopping excursions where you could easily throw more than 100 items into your cart. Having a calculator keep track of how much you're spending will save you from any surprises at the checkout line.
Tip #6: Change your weekly shopping habits. Try going to a different grocery store or walk the aisles in your current grocery store in a different order. Lindstrom says the change will force consumers to pay closer attention to potentially cheaper brands. "When you walk down the same supermarket aisles, it's a routine. You're not going to question the price," he says. "But if you change your path through the supermarket, you're waking up and starting to evaluate the value of everything you put in your cart."
So how have you beaten retailers at their game? What kinds of retail tricks have you discovered while shopping?
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