They say never shop for groceries when you’re hungry. But sensory-savvy supermarkets appeal to more than just growling stomachs. Using the senses of sight, sound, taste, and touch, clever grocers capture attention—and wallets—in creative (and sometimes tricky!) ways. Are you using these captivating techniques to increase sales in your grocery store?
Listen up, shoppers
Supermarkets carry anywhere from 15,000 to 60,000 SKUs, and it’s a grocer’s job to make sure we arrive to checkout with as much as we can load into our cart. The music that plays in the backdrop seems like harmless amusement—but did you know that it’s actually a sneaky sales-driver?
Studies reveal that slow-tempo music increases sales when tested against fast-moving, energy-packed beats. Accompanied by soft, relaxing music, shoppers take their time, loading their carts with more items as they casually move throughout the store.
Plus, certain kinds of tunes can also boost sales on certain foods. When regaled with classical music, shoppers are more likely to pick up additional bottles of wine. Romantic Italian music evoking a gondola ride along the Venice canals is another strong driver of pricey reds. Next time you’re in the fresh-made sushi section, listen for the glint of Japanese chimes to hear just how store managers can use sound to inspire selections.
Entertain with memorable visual experiences
End caps used to be simple cardboard displays, but supermarkets now curate elaborate scenes to get us in the mood for certain purchases. Consider a tailgate scene complete with lawn chairs and football-shaped balloons to encourage beer and snack sales when it’s time for the big game. For Valentine’s Day, grocers stage a date-night dinner overflowing with fragrant flowers, romantic recipes and pricey wines. When immersed in these mental “play areas,” we’re transported out of errand-mode and into a form of entertainment where we stop minding prices and focus on having fun.
Even Walt Disney adopted this visual strategy when designing Main Street USA, the central shopping thoroughfare of the Disney theme parks. “Main Street facades are presented to us as houses we’re invited to enter,” wrote cultural analyst Umberto Eco, in his book Travels in Hyper Reality. “But the interior is always a disguised supermarket, where you buy obsessively, believing you are still playing.” When we are able to picture ourselves in these special moments, we’re more likely to stock up on extra ingredients.
Even minor visuals grab attention
Even minor visual markers positioned around the market can persuade us into making certain purchases. Something as small as miniature French flags poking out of small end caps can encourage more baguette sales.
Other visceral visuals include artsy chalkboards listing the day’s special in rustic calligraphy. This is more than visual whimsy—our minds correlate this style of signage to that of a countryside farmer’s market. Suddenly, we’re struck by visuals of freshly baked bread and vegetables plucked fresh from the field.
Engage with eye-popping colors
Our brains connect the color of food with how well it will taste, so much so that Florida orange growers began synthetically coloring their fruits to match our mental interpretation of “fresh.” Now, grocers can achieve these dazzling and stunning effects using the power of light.
TriGain is a potassium fluorosilicate (PFS) phosphor used in LED lighting to boost the visual freshness factor. While traditional fluorescents yield unattractive pallid and dull colors, TriGain vivifies your produce section with sharp, supercharged colors that leap off of shelves. Using this technology, radiant reds and brilliant greens come to life in eye-catching ways that boost sales of fruits and vegetables. Plus, it’s energy efficient, topping the list as one of the chief sensory-pleasing ways you can boost your bottom line without increasing costs.
Connect with the power of smell
The sense of smell is the sense most tied to our memories. Certain aromas can unwittingly inspire us to indulge in certain purchases. In one telling study, a small gas station shop was able to increase sales by 300% simply by piping in the scent of fresh coffee. The smell of fresh bread rolls and sweet cakes are the scents supermarkets most often use to stimulate senses. By positioning the bakery closer to the front of the store, the more likely customers are to indulge in these dessert delicacies.
How grocers are able to manipulate our senses is a dazzling cross-section of consumer psychology and business strategy. Using these tips, you can take control of the sensory opportunities that create your supermarket’s ambiance and start using it to your advantage.