10 Tactics Retailers Use to Trick You into Spending More

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Most of us are perfectly aware that retailers are doing everything in their power to make us empty our wallets. After all, their profit depends on it. But many of the strategies employed by retail companies are based on consumer psychology. In other words, they are messing with our minds.

Whether you are shopping in-store or online, there are ways you are primed into buying and spending more, without you even realizing it. Here are 10 examples of surprising tactics used by retailers to squeeze more money out of you.

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Free Samples

Ever been to Costco on a weekend just to try out the samples? You might think this is ‘oh so generous’ of the warehouse club but there’s an ulterior motive behind their so-called generosity with the freebies: it increases the chances of you buying something when you get to test it for free, mainly due to the reciprocity norm – you feel obligated to return the favor after someone has done something for you; in this case, purchase a product as a “thank you,” whether out of gratitude or even regret for having received the sample in the first place.

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No Dollar Signs

It might seem ritzy and chic for fancy restaurants to leave out dollar signs on their menu or for small, posh boutique stores to exclude them from their price tags. But there’s nothing elegant about the theory behind this tactic. Researchers suggest people tend to spend more when they don’t see the dollar signs, due to a psychological phenomenon called “pain of paying.” The lower the pain of paying, the higher the spending.

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One-Click Ordering

Your favorite clothes, daily groceries and everything in between, just one click away? Is there anything more convenient than that when it comes to shopping? The downside for consumers, and most certainly an upside for retailers like Amazon, is that one-click ordering makes it that much harder for us to abandon our virtual carts. This means we end up squandering a lot more money than if we had to go through a longer process of clicking a few more times or entering address and payment information.

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Charm Pricing Strategy

Have you ever wondered why a bottle of conditioner isn’t $5 instead of $4.99? The answer is pretty simple: it’s just another marketing strategy called “charm pricing,”  which is based on the left digit being reduced from a round number by one cent. Researchers have found it to be super-efficient in increasing sales by 25%, on average.

A one-cent difference doesn’t really matter that much in the grand scheme of things, aka your grocery budget, but you’re more likely to think you’re getting a deal at $4.99 because you subconsciously associate the price more closely with $4 instead of $5.

Another tactic used by retailers is “prestige pricing,” which consists of retailers using round prices so that customers will associate them with quality and luxury.

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Supersized Carts

As it happens, shoppers are not happy with pushing around empty carts because it gives them a feeling of poverty. That’s one reason. Another one would be that a cart with a double size can influence shoppers, on average, to make 40% more purchases than they may actually need.

Next time you head to the supermarket for some bare necessities, opt for a basket or a smaller cart to prevent supermarket overspending, subsequent overeating or throwing food away. Your wallet and your body will thank you for it!

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Liberal Return Policies

A recent study conducted by UT Dallas revealed that customers tend to return more purchases when retailers have flexible return policies. Most shoppers cite a liberal return policy as a major factor when deciding where they will or will not shop. Retailers count on this and cash in on it.

Funnily enough, the longer the return period, the fewer the returns. One reason would be that the longer they keep the product, the more attached people feel to it and less in a hurry to decide whether to take it back.

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Creative Merchandising

End caps are the products displayed at the end of a shopping aisle in a store. They might indeed boast great deals but it’s hardly the case for every product. Retailers often pair an item that doesn’t sell that well, usually sold at a deep discount, with a high-end item with a price to match. This unique pairing will influence you to get the more expensive product as well, assuming it’s also a good deal.

Whether a good deal or not, in the end, it is a good strategy that can boost sales of end-aisle displays by up to 30%.

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Placing Products at Eye Level

Have you ever walked down the grocery aisles and found name-brand products staring you right in the face while cheaper store brands were strategically hidden on the shelves closer to the floor? Well, this is called product placement or a “planogram’ and retailers pay good money for this in-your-face technique to make you buy the branded products. It actually works because many shoppers no longer look up or down in search of a better deal. Retailers will often refer to this with the phrase ‘eye level is buy level’.

This strategy is really efficient when it comes to aisles with products for children, such as the cereal aisle; you must have witnessed a child throwing a tantrum at some point during your grocery shopping trips. The kid must have seen some flashy box of cereals with popular cartoon characters on it, tactically placed at a lower height so they can see (and want) it.

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Limited-time Deals

Whether in-store or online, there’s no way you didn’t come across messages such as “Don’t wait!” “Order now!” “Sale ends tomorrow!”. These countdown timers are constantly used by retailers such as Amazon, urging shoppers to take advantage of certain offers before these expire.

It’s an efficient way to tell shoppers just how long they have to buy a product at a certain price and persuade them to make the purchase before the deal passes them by. However, it’s highly likely that these products will be available elsewhere online, with a deal not attached to a ticking clock.

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‘Social Proof’ and Peer Pressure

Unknown brands aggressively promoting their products with all its five-star reviews in a stream of Facebook ads is an efficient technique to stir the curiosity of potential customers. You’ll be more interested and likely to purchase a certain item if it’s the talk of the town.

In marketing terms, this technique is called “social proof” and it also applies when companies use expert testimonials or include sales numbers promoting their products. However, beware, as some retailers have been caught using ‘sock puppet’ accounts. They are fake accounts set up for the express purpose of a retailer reviewing their own products, let’s just say the reviews are always excellent.

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