Making Smart Purchasing Decisions: Demystifying Marketing Tactics

April 25, 2018

When it comes to converting consumers, the secret to more sales is as simple as understanding consumer behavior and learning what buyers want from a business. In this instance YOU are the buyer. 

In most cases buyers don’t have sufficient time or knowledge surrounding marketing tactics that increase your likelihood to impulse buy. Marketers thrive off emotion and senses to get you to buy irrationally. Demystifying the cunningly orchestrated selling processes will help prevent succumbing to spending without realizing it.


Elucidating Marketing Tactics that Increase Consumer Spend

Store geography

It’s no coincidence that stores can feel like a maze. Stores use planogram layouts, meaning each item’s location has been carefully selected for maximum buying power.

Confusing layouts are referred to as the Gruen Effect. This leads buyers to lose track of their original intentions, making them more susceptible to make impulse buys.

While you’re lost in the labyrinth – be on the lookout for other placement tricks like:


  • Popular/ Necessities in back of store– Making it hard to keep your eye on the prize, stores will place most needed items such as milk & eggs in the back of the store. You’re likely to spot other items of interest along the way.
  • Popular items in the middle aisles (boomerang) – You went straight to the back, got your butter without one glance at offerings along the way. That’s great until you have to make the Trek back to the registers. Since majority of buyers are right handed, we naturally look to our right. This is perfect opportunity to place other popular items to the right of the aisle.
  • More expensive product on the right – Prime positioning for those right handed buyers.
  • Eye levels and attraction spots – Ideal real estate to place popular & more pricy items at eye level. Children will see eye to eye with junk food and bargain priced items will likely see eye to eye with your ankles. Bargain hunters will always look for lowest prices.


Scarcity Marketing & Limited Offers

Great demand leads to great sales. Creating a sense of urgency is one of the oldest tricks in the book and still one of the smartest. 

Marketers MUST create a sense of urgency, so you give way to the now-or-never decisions. Several MRI studies, including one on nicotine addiction, have shown that our frontal cortex is highly active when we think about waiting for something.


Look out for:

  • Limited inventory – “While supplies last” “Only 5 per customer” no true discount is offered, just  illusion of one
  • Timers / Countdowns – Amazon, Ticket sales & travel booking sites are infamous for this.  Creating urgency with a countdown forces people to make up their minds quickly.


False benefits & bright tags

We've all seen store windows full of sale signs promising amazing deals and price reductions. All bright, some red, some yellow. Certain colors sell more merchandise.

Be mindful:

  •  Look at the regular price when you’re shopping, not just the brightly colored sales sticker. Bright colors don’t necessarily mean a better deal.


Reframing the numbers

These methods are effective for buyers of all types. These number tweaks will ease the “spend ‘til it hurts” pain. You are either being eased into pricing, forced to assume the value of items from the sellers or buying more than you originally planned.


Watch out for:

  • Illusion of bulk bargains - “10 for $10" deal
  • Power of free – “Bogo” “Spend $50 and Get Free Shipping”
  • A Loss Aversion - “You save 30% off $100” Makes you more comfortable paying $70. Had you not seen the discount – that $70 would make you uncomfortable.
  • Left-digit effect - 1.99 is closer to $2 – but not to your brain.  Odd numbers do better. The difference of one cent can turn a window shopper into an actual shopper
  • Suggested retail price/Price anchoring - "Retail price $139.99. Our price $49.99." 
  • Arbitrary coherence - Highest price point is displayed to make all other items looks cheap
    • Positioning of goods / perception of getting a bargain & decoy pricing
    • Don’t judge a product’s quality based on the prices around it.
    • Placing accessories next to big-ticket items


Store loyalty programs

Are designed to retain existing customers through various rewards exclusive to members.

The benefit for the stores is more cost-effective to increase customer loyalty, than to put all marketing resources toward finding new customer.


Loyalty program benefits can make it worth it, but your shopping behaviors are tracked & analyzed. Customers provide company insight into the spending habits of the customer through data collection, demographic profiling, etc.

If you value a more private shopping experience – best to use cash and no loyalty program. Credit card and banks share and sell your data whether or not you are a part of loyalty programs.



Store App

An increasing amount of businesses are trying mobile apps to attract and retain consumers. Letting buyers learn about products, discover deals, locate nearby stores and even placing orders in advance is great benefit.

Know this:

The more you make use of the app, the more data is acquired about your habits and interests. Stores can use this data to lure you buy more than they might otherwise. Apps often make it easier to purchase items on impulse.


Credit card

It’s tempting when you are offered, upwards to 30% off your order when opening a store credit card. 

Perks may also feature other special benefits, such as bonus coupons, free gift wrapping, free shipping, free alterations or exclusive financing offers. 

Typically offering lower limits and high APR- undisciplined sh

oppers could easily rack up a bill they can’t afford to pay off at the end of the month, which would negate the value of any rewards or discounts they’ve earned on the purchases.


Unless you’ve already researched this card & if there is even a remote possibly that you’d carry a balance, you should just take a pass on it.


Sensory Marketing Awareness

Stores will carefully engineer store ambiance to get you to buy more. Some key tactics include:

  • Good beats
  • Color schemes
  • Scents
  • Spotlight of items
  • Sample stations
  • Big cart
  • Celebratory /seasonal items
  • Nostalgia
  • New packaging - downsizing of the packaging
  • Mirror Manipulation
  • Shopping Speed Bumps
  • Vani-sizing


Buying Smart on the Fly

Now that the tricky psychological tactics have been uncovered - here are some tips to help further your informed purchasing moments:

  • Compare prices - Use barcode comparison apps like ShopSavvy Barcode Scanner. Simply scan barcode on and get instant price comparison local and online.
  • Buy early - Being deliberate about choosing and paying for gifts helps to avoid impulse and frenzied purchases
  • Life cycle - Examine the short life cycles of various items in your life that went from cute product offered for a limited time, to something collecting dust on a shelf, to a Goodwill donation within a few short years.
  • Compare to something else you want to save for - Think: “This $400 on hiking shoes could be used for parking permits at all State Parks for an entire year”
  • Don’t shop hungry or in need - If you're not sure if you should buy something, then wait 24 hours to see if you still want it as badly after a full day has passed. Waiting to make a decision to buy is not going to make a difference in the majority of purchases. In the space between thought and action resides judgment. Give yourself some space to consciously think.
  • Understand advertised cost vs lifetime cost - Sure your new coffee machine will reduce amount spent on trips to Starbucks. You need to also consider the lifetime cost for the coffee, creamer, water, sugar & cups.
  • Use your coupons, loyalty rewards, store app scanners & perks

Don’t be fooled! Cognizance of marketing illusions and tactics will help you become a smarter buyer.


Polaris Greystone Financial Group, LLC is a federally registered investment adviser. The information, statements and opinions expressed in this material are provided for general information only, are based on data we believe to be accurate at the time of writing, and are subject to change without notice. This material does not take into account your particular investment objectives, financial situation or needs, is not intended as a recommendation to purchase or sell any security, and is not intended as individual or specific advice. Investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital. Diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Polaris Greystone Financial Group, LLC and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. No advice may be rendered by Polaris Greystone Financial Group, LLC unless a client service agreement is in place.

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