Sunday 19th May 2024

Marketing tricks retailers use to make you spend more – and how to get wise to them

Have you ever gone into a store for a specific item and come out with a basket-full?

Do you head off to the supermarket armed with your shopping list but end up impulse buying loads of stuff you hadn’t planned to purchase?

Yes, it happens to the best of us. There are a ton of marketing tricks retailers use to make you spend more money. 

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Being aware of clever marketing ploys is half the battle to beating them. Knowledge is power, and understanding how retailers use psychology in their bid to get our money is the key to helping us resist and spend our hard-earned cash more mindfully.

Let’s have a look at some retail tricks and how to get wise to them.

Clever store layouts

Have you ever got lost in an Ikea store? You are lead around in a particular direction, taking you all around the shop. Even if you are initially heading for a certain product you can’t help but see as many other products as possible on your journey.

Your senses are overloaded by beautiful room layouts so you can imagine the furniture and furnishings in your own home, as well as bargain bins full of low-priced items and piles of tempting products you suddenly feel you need. It is hard to resist! 

Ikea, like other retailers, has fully embraced a marketing concept known as the Gruen Transfer. Stores are laid out to take you in a particular direction, keep you there as long as possible and, therefore, encourage you to spend more.

Another trick retailers use is to change their layout to expose customers to different items on their journey to locate the toilet paper and toothpaste that they actually need. I find this really irritating when I just want to whizz around and do the weekly shop.

Sensory enticements are also part of the in-store experience designed to make you spend. Pleasant smells of food cooking, items to taste, perfumes and cosmetics to test can all entice you to splash the cash.

Premium products at eye level

Premium products are generally placed at eye level on the shelves in supermarkets. Own and value brands are usually on the bottom shelves, or high up. Savvy shoppers will make the effort to find them, though!

BOGOFs, special offers and bundle deals

BOGOFs or BTGOF (buy one get one free or buy two get one free) deals are placed so you can’t miss them. They generally consist of higher-priced branded products.

Before you give into temptation, ask yourself if you really need two or three of the same product. And does it work out cheaper than buying the same quantity of the retailer’s own brand?

I tend to be sceptical about any type of special offer; they are almost always pushing more expensive premium brands that don’t necessarily offer the best value. 

Watch out for the end-of-aisle deals too; they are full of perfect impulse purchases. Not to mention the treats by the tills to tempt you as you queue.

Bundle deals are another trick retailers use to get us to buy more. You go to buy a phone and it is offered as a bundle with earbuds, for example, so you end up spending more than you intended.

RRP scams

RRP – Recommended Retail Price – is pretty meaningless when you think about it. The manufacturer is not likely to recommend a price to best suit the consumer, after all. 

I am convinced these are artificially inflated in some cases so that retailers can offer the item much cheaper, making you think you have a huge bargain. You might, for example, see a shelf price of 50% less than the RRP, which looks like a great buy, but it’s always best to shop around and do some research before rushing to purchase.

Price matching

Since the advent of discount supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl, the bigger supermarkets have started to price match the low prices offered by their cheaper rivals.

However, although they may offer price matching on a small selection, don’t forget that most of their prices will still be higher, so you are likely to pay more for a family shop. 

For example, Sainsbury’s is currently boasting that they have 150 products matched to Aldi prices. However, this only applies in larger stores and 150 is a very small percentage of products when you consider the thousands of items they stock.

Simple pricing 

Sofa manufacturers are masters of the simple pricing strategy, paring down a large figure so that it sounds small. For example, they will advertise a product at 559, rather than £559.00, as it sounds cheaper. It’s still almost 600 big ones, folks!

Adding a sense of urgency

Another marketing trick that retailers use is to create the illusion of scarcity. An online listing may tell you that there is only one item left to make you rush to buy it. 

Limited edition runs also create a sense of urgency. If you don’t buy it now, you might miss out, and we all suffer from FOMO from time to time.

Reductions for a limited time can lead to impulse purchases too and aren’t necessarily good value. This is especially true of Black Friday sales. The consumer organisation Which? found that in 2022 98% of so-called deals were the same price or cheaper at other times of the year.

Celebrity and ‘expert’ endorsements

It’s easy to be swayed into a purchase by a celebrity endorsement. Remember, that celebrities are being paid to advertise products and may never even use them. 

Do we know for sure that Johnny Depp looks moodily into his mirror each morning as he applies his Sauvage aftershave or that Claudia Winkleman keeps her dandruff at bay with Head & Shoulders?

Recommendations by professionals such as dentists, doctors or vets can also be taken with a pinch of salt. 

Introductory offers

Store assistants will often try to encourage you to sign up to store cards with an introductory offer or money off. It may be tempting to save 10 or 20% on your purchase, but be aware that interest rates on store cards are usually around 25-30%. The product will actually cost you more if you don’t pay the balance quickly. 

You are also usually offered a discount when you sign up for online newsletters. If you take advantage, make sure you unsubscribe immediately. Otherwise, you are likely to be deluged with offers, and do you really need that temptation in your inbox? 


These are just some of the marketing tricks retailers use to make you spend more. They have many others! Once you begin to get wise to them, you will begin to discover what really constitutes a bargain and what is just hype. 

Photo Credits: Pexels

Shoestring Jane

Mouthy Blogger

Shoestring Jane is a full-time self-employed mum of three daughters. Her frugal partner in crime is handyman extraordinaire, Mr Shoestring. They are constantly on the look out for ways to save and make extra money. Read more on her blog, Shoestring Cottage.

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