Retail Trends: The Eyes Have It

Big chain food stores have done a tremendous amount of research on how people shop.

Today in these huge food stores, marketing is primarily transactional. That means there is a minimum amount of personal communication between the customer and the store’s staff.

Location, lighting, and packaging take the place of person-to-person interaction. These big box retailers need to know how customers shop because they aren’t particularly interested in having salespeople on the floor. Salespeople cost more than clerks.

How do they entice customers to spend money? Easy. They put the milk in the back of the store forcing the shopper to wend his/her way through all manner of enticing goodies before getting to the milk, which is why he/she came to the store in the first place. But that’s just the beginning.

Here are some other things their research has told them: The vast majority of people entering any retail store look left and turn right. The grocery store puts the bakery on the right. Why? It smells good. Smell is purely emotional, not intellectual. Once past the bakery the shopper comes upon the fresh fruit and vegetable section. This area has mirrors, water, bright colored fruits and veggies. By now the customer is salivating and ready to go up and down the isles on a shopping spree.

Another thing learned by these same retailers is that women look down not up. And men look up not down. I’ve been told these actions are a result of our ancestors. Back in the dawn of human time, men hunted food in the trees while women tended the children and food growing on the ground.

How do the grocery stores use this information? They and their suppliers know that food products placed on a shelf about three to four feet above the floor have the greatest sale potential. They also know that few women buy exotic high-priced foods but men do. That knowledge leads them to put these things high on the shelf. It works.

Shoppers enter the store, look left and turn right. Men look up, women down. It seems simple enough but it’s also one of marketing’s best-kept secrets — until now.

Can other non-grocery stores benefit from these unique human foibles? Sure. It works in any retail environment where the customer can ply the aisles. The product lines could include books, hardware, clothes, recreational products. It works for just about anything that is displayed on shelves in a self-service environment.

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John Wyckoff John Wyckoff (now deceased) is the author of Mind Your Own Business, 2nd Edition: The Complete Guide to Profitable Powersports Dealerships. He founded Intersports Fashion West, a wildly successful powersports leather accessories business which he sold to Hein Gericke. In later life he appeared as a frequent speaker and consulted with motorcycle dealership owners on profitability and retailing.

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