Controlling Shoppers Through Architecture

A short A-Z compendium of design tricks stores use to get you to spend more. We like T, for Tiles:

    “Supermarkets used to have a trick placing slightly smaller tiles on the floor in the more expensive aisles of the shop. When a customer entered on of these aisles their trolley would click faster making them think they were travelling faster and thereby subconsciously slow down and spend more time in that aisle.”

Which ones have you noticed?


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  1. flyover says:

    As a merchandiser rep, part of our state meeting focused on the best placement for displays and shelf position.
    It is amazing the difference in purchase percentages dependent on both store & shelf location, and quantity of product on the shelves.
    We also know that purchasers who buy our products will spend something like $75 per shopping visit versus $40 or something like that, which gives us leverage to get those prime positions.
    It’s crazy, I was never aware of this before…

  2. AcilletaM says:

    I noticed the trick of putting a really busy background behind text you really don’t want people to read and/or make it look like you’ve written a lot more.

  3. Shaggy says:

    Although very interesting, the background on that website gave me a headache. Is good webdesign dead?

  4. DanLockton says:

    There are indeed some interesting tricks there with parallels in other fields where it’s desirable to ‘trick’ for the purposes of control*.

    ‘Tricks’ in product packaging can also be used to ‘manipulate’ the customer into using more than is required – some examples discussed here:

    *e.g. the clicking effect of the tiles is also sometimes employed in the UK with progressively closer raised lines painted on roads approaching a junction, to make drivers think they’re going more quickly than the really are, and hence slow down more.

  5. martinjhoward says:

    How about the way they place children’s toys/cereal/snacks – at kid’s eye level. I have a whole section on manipulation in the retail sector on my site and blog….

  6. Vinny says:

    The most common one is placing lower-priced generic items on the floor or on the top shelf and keeping the “brand name” stuff at eye-level. This is usually related to the fact that those folks pay more for shelf-space.

  7. North of 49 says:

    how about sticking the milk and meat at the back of the store so that if you want some, you have to walk through it both ways to get it.

  8. Ishmael says:

    The music. I’ve seen two tactics.

    1) Slow music. The theory is that if the music is slower, you’ll move slower, therefore lingering in the store and hopefully buying more.

    2) Popular music for a demographic. Where my mother shops, it’s in a neighborhood of people her age with money. They play songs that were popular when my mother was a teen. She says she’s noticed herself lingering in some isles so that she can finish listening to the song they’re playing.

    As a testament to this, I was in Wal-Mart earlier, and lingered in the snack isle while they played the theme song to “Snakes on a Plane.” I bought an extra box of snacks for my plane trip tomorrow. (Hopefully sans snakes)

    Damn marketing.

  9. Kat says:

    They’ve been Slashdotted, Farked, BoingBoinged, or whatever you’d like to call it.

  10. barneyfyfe says:

    Have you ever tried to walk out of Ikea in less than 5 minutes?

  11. timmus says:

    The worst I’ve seen was at an Albertson’s supermarket we used to go to in Oklahoma where they were apparently so bent on pushing impulse purchases that they’d clog the entryway area with tables of items from the bakery/deli/dairy or whatever was on special. It was really annoying trying to maneuver the shopping cart through this labyrinth just to get into the main part of the store. Not exactly subtle, but I’ve rarely seen it pointed out.

    Don’t even get me started on their practice of putting milk all the way in the back of the store. They may think they’re luring me past all their other merchandise when I’ve actually gone to a smaller grocery store instead to avoid the hassle.

  12. jeblis says:

    Toothpaste companies started using wider nozzles on their tubes. People associate length with the “correct” amount of toothpaste, not width.

  13. etinterrapax says:

    I’ve noticed that in Target, they have made it impossible to get back to the front of the store in a straight line, especially in the aisles where the vacuum cleaners and storage items are. You have to look for the opening in the wall, which is not in an intuitive location.

    Seasonal items in Targets are also placed at the furthest point from the entrance, where the milk would be in a supermarket. And women’s clothing, jewelry, and accessories, and cleaning projucts and pet supplies are nearest the main entrance. Items stereotypically geared toward men, and men’s clothing, are at the back.

  14. With the possible exception of Publix (because I haven’t looked) EVERY grocery store I’ve been in places the diet food in the same aisles as the cookies and junk food.

    Several stores in my hometown pulled the “Not Closing Down” trick.

    Although very interesting, the background on that website gave me a headache.

    I think I can feel my brain bleeding.

  15. One of the malls here, Cherry Creek [Denver] specifically laid out their marble tiles so that women wearing high heels, wouldn’t jam their heel while in stride.

    The other tactic, is that the mall is designed so that you are always facing a store front. It’s built on an angular crescent plan.

    There’s no clocks. All the drinking fountains have been turned off; though vending machines selling water have been installed.

    They never used to have anywhere to sit, but now they put in a widescreen plasma with a sitting area for guys who tagged along with their wives shopping.

  16. at my place, we just like charging a shitload of money for everything.

  17. Tankueray says:

    Look at the way Disney sets up their parks. After working there for a while, you come to learn that they have “sympathy stores” after you come out of a ride and then if you don’t buy there you’ll get caught at the exit. If you look at google earth at the Orlando parks you can see pattern. Cheap stuff as you go in, expensive stuff as you go out. It’s a marketing ploy that may have been invented by Disney, when I walk in all I want is food, when I leave, the kids and family want pins/stuffed animals/t-shirts/etc. It’s a raquet, you must submit…. We are the Disney, lower your shields and prepare to be boarded, resistance is futile. You will be assimilated….mwahahahhhhhaaaaa!!!!!

  18. medalian1 says: