Avoid These Grocery Store Marketing Strategies

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Grocery shoppers spend smarter and save money off their grocery bill. You don’t even need to use coupons to save. Learn how to grocery shop like a pro and avoid marketing tactics. Let’s outsmart the experts.

Avoid These Most Common Grocery Store Marketing Strategies

Your Shopping Mission

Get organized, make a list, and collect all your valuable coupons. Go to your local grocery store (find prime parking). Enter the store (I will stick to my list, I will stick to my list!!). Is that freshly baked bread I smell? Make a B-Line to the bakery department to see what’s cookin’. Put delicious-smelling bread in the cart. WAIT!!! Was that on my list??

Did you just fail to Avoid Marketing Tactics? You sure did!

Big *FACEPALM*!!! This happens time and time again to the average shopper. Let’s talk about some great tips to help you avoid these unwanted impulse purchases and stick to your grocery list. This way, you find the best deals to stick to your grocery budget.

What Went Wrong With Your Shopping Trip?

Five seconds after entering the store, the sweet smell of freshly baked bread enticed you. And now, you have it tucked nicely in your cart. What gives? None of this is done by accident, my friend. In fact, it is all part of a marketing strategy. Grocery stores have long employed these kinds of tactics to increase their sales revenue.

While you think you are getting a good deal, you are spending more money.

Marketers gather information based on your behavior, social and economic psychology to discover ways to entice extra purchases. Guess What? Many of these tactics you may never even know about. Think about it; you are on your way home from work and need to pick up a gallon of milk. Most stop in after work to make small trips to your local grocery store.

A simple task, you say. I got this shopping trip in the bag

I got this.  You run into the store to get milk. Next, you find it is located in the very back corner of the store. HUH?? You travel past the produce section, bakery, and meat departments before reaching your destination and along the way pick up a few of those on-sale peaches that look so good and another loaf of bread.

You, my friend, have just entered into the world of marketing tactics. The goal: From the time a consumer (YOU) sets foot in the store until the second you leave, marketing tools to increase the odds of you staying in the store longer have started. The longer you stay increases your opportunity to buy more. Let’s explore.

What is a Grocery Store Marketing Plan? 

A grocery store’s marketing plan works as an operational document outlining the various marketing tactics that a business will implement to reach its target market and generate leads.

  • It uses tailored messaging that is targeted toward pre-defined demographics and geographic areas.
  • Offers Unique Selling Points, such as products only found at that specific store or deeply discounted items (see loss leaders)
  • Promotional pricing, use of store loyalty cards, exclusive deals, and specialized coupons. While also advertising the use of manufacturer coupons to lower the cost of food prices from inflation.
  • Offer specialized tastings, such as a delicious-smelling bakery item or quick-made food from the deli counter.
  • Tailored store music – A popular study conducted in the 1980s by Ronald Milliman revealed that supermarket sales increased by 38% when slow music was played in-store.

How to Avoid Marketing Tactics When Grocery Shopping

Many frugal shoppers (including those called – extreme couponer) understand the concept of loss leaders and how they are used to getting you into the store. Loss leaders are a pricing strategy where a product is sold at a price below its market cost to stimulate other sales of more profitable goods or services.

You can watch my video below to learn more about loss leaders to get a better understanding. 

How to Avoid Grocery Marketing Tactics

But did you know that most companies pay the store to have their products displayed on the end caps? Here you are thinking that those are the items that currently are the best offers.

In some cases, the end caps contain on-sale items but are paired with a high-price item. (i.e. cake mix is on sale for $1 and on the next shelf is the frosting for $1.79, not on sale). The majority of shoppers don’t realize the difference. Are you one that didn’t take notice too?

This is exactly what the stores want. They want you blissfully unaware of the simple strategies to get you to buy more. By the time you reach the checkout, you would have been attracted by promotional signs, specialized lighting, end cap displays, product placement, smells of delicious food, and FREE tastings; it is no wonder you find products in your cart that we’re not on your original list.

Even at check out, you see displays of last-minute items for purchase (candy, gum, magazines, batteries, to-go snacks, and even eyeglass repair kits).

Most Known Marketing Tactics That All Consumers Should Be Aware of – Creative ways to get your attention

  • Advertising a sale on one item placed next to corresponding items that are not.
  • Free tastings of food that you were not planning on purchasing
  • Location of products – mid-level (or eye level) is typically more expensive, and sugary type food is placed on the bottom shelf to attract kids.
  • Colors of product packaging. Brighter packaging draws attention to the eyes. 
  • Look for buzzwords. An example: Items are gluten-free (not labeled) versus those labeled gluten-free.
  • Sights and smells as you enter the store. (Never go in hungry to the store)
  • Product placement – i.e. Milk back corner of the store. Must travel the length of the store bypassing many other products.
  • End caps advertisements – are not always on sale, but shoppers assume that they are.
  • The Music in-store.  It is designed to slow you down. The more time you spend at the store the more money you will spend.
  • The items at checkout – The most profitable items in a store. Often we reward ourselves on the way out. 

Now you know you can avoid marketing tactics. They can be very sneaky.

Impulse Buys at the Grocery Store

All the above-listed grocery store tactics can lead many of us to make impulse decisions based on store brand marketing. It is often that we fail and end up with many impulse purchases in our cart.

Saving Money at the Grocery Shopping

Avoiding marketing tactics is a great way to save money at the grocery store. Grocery shopping can be stressful enough.  Even if you are not aware of it, companies are competing for your purchases. This defeats the purpose of doing our best to save our family money while shopping for essentials. We have all been SUCKED in, so it is quite easy to say;

“The Store Made Me Do IT!!!” Yes, Yes, it DID!

Who is “the most wanted” when you go to the grocery store? (The bakery department, the produce section, sample central……….) What impulse items have you purchased recently?

Being smart about your shopping experience allows you to be frugal. Savings money at the grocery store is a must, especially when you are on a tight budget. Remember that you have control over your spending, not the marketers.  

Loss Leaders Source:

Other Great Grocery Savings Articles

How Much Should I Be Spending On Groceries

6 Food Purchases That Kill Your Budget – Meal Planning

Creative Ways to Reduce Food Waste

The Best Time to Buy Anytime – A Month-to-Month Grocery Sales Cycle Guide

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  1. I am so happy that I have learned over the years, especially the years I was a cashier, how to save money. We always stick to our monthly plan and give ourselves a little wiggle room if we want something different. The only problem I’m having now is the pregnancy cravings every time we go shopping!

  2. It’s Bakers/Krogers/Dillons and their Buy 5 Get $5 off! Sure, I save money. . .but do I really need that much Peanut Butter!?

  3. It looks like I’m not the only one that this resonate with! 🙂 I learned a couple years ago that these types of marketing strategies have become an in-demand field–an a high paying one at that! As frugal as I try to be I have caught myself giving in a lot, although it is usually my husband “sabotaging” my coupon trip lol 😀

  4. Great tips! Since I started couponing, I don’t have such a hard time with getting sidetracked from my list. But if I bring my family with me, all bets are off. They don’t have the goal of focusing on loss leaders like I do.

  5. This is so true! It has happened to me on a few occasions. I go in w my list and my coups n end up getting more items(not on the list)! lol!

  6. This is an area that I think my husband and I need to improve in. Just last night he came home from the grocery store with a “special treat for me”… taffy. It was delicious, but I’ve been having the same concern…too many unneeded items being purchased. I know it’s just a few dollars, but it can add up. I hope in the future we can find a shopping strategy we’re both comfortable with that can minimize this. Great post!

  7. That sounds like me to a tee – I have no control when I go to the grocery store, so I’ve been trying to stick to my list and focus! I have yet to master couponing… one thing at a time 🙂 ~ Renee

  8. I always have a list when I go to Fresh & Easy, but they have a “discount” section where all types of things like meat, desserts, pizzas, pre-made meals and salads are just begging me to buy them. There’s usually a small mass of people surrounding this section, so we all try to shimmy our way to the front so we can ooh and ahh at the great deals. I usually end up getting 1 or 2 items that were not on my original list. My thinking is that it’s on sale, so it’s ok…NO…NOT OK! I always get sucked in! I need to be stronger! LOL!

    1. LOL….I use to think the same way. But it was on sale….and oh wait I didn’t need that. I still sometimes get caught (sucked) into a great deal.

  9. I never go to the store without a list, but I admit, I fall victim to marketing strategies from time to time. Usually when I’m hungry when I go shopping is when I find it’s the worst – or when my hubby goes with me — he NEVER sticks to the list. I think the stuff that gets added most frequently is sweets (cookies and such) – I try not to buy them so I don’t include them on the list often, but especially if I’m hungry when shopping, they usually find their way into the cart…if they happen to be on sale its a sure thing.

  10. My wife loves couponing! She and her mom can spend hours discussing their coupons. Going to the store with her is a challenge. i am the kind of person who wants to get in and get out. if you are couponing, it doesn’t work that way. She does come home with some good deals. So, I guess she knows what she’s doing. I can always grown browsing on my own while she shops for deals.

  11. I’m bad for chocolate bars at the checkout, even though I know it’s a marketing ploy. My most important strategy is to never go shopping when I’m the least bit hungry.

  12. I always get stuck in the produce department. I’m a sucker for fruits and vegetables, so I end up grabbing extra stuff that I don’t even know if it’s a good deal for that week or not. I’m hoping to become a little better at list making and couponing!

  13. I hardly ever walk out with just the things that I walk into get. I know I am a victim of the marketing tactic game, but it’s ok.

  14. We shop mostly at Aldi, so the prices are great and they don’t have many name brands. Couponing was too intense for me and I couldn’t get organized enough.

  15. Love your site! My site is also about couponing, but I’m a newbie so I have a long way to go to get to your level. I will have to check back often for some inspiration 🙂

    1. MISSY!!!! Thank you so very much!!! It means the world when another deal site loves my blog as much as I do!!! Yes, Please do come back and visit and please feel free to give some constructive criticism. I am always open to fresh and new ideas.

  16. My goal is to make a list, don’t bring my family with me, and get in and out in a hurry. I have a budget and 80% of the time, it works.

  17. I am a huge impulse shopper and it seems to be getting worse the older I get. It’s sickening! And there’s definitely not one trigger-anything can catch my eye on any given day. I need to go to the store with a list, I need to, need to, need to.

  18. OH how this use to be my biggest down fall and when I started using coupons I would justify it to myself by what I was saving with my coupons. Now my problem is my child and all those overpriced candy bars at the check out, sometimes I say yes and sometimes I say no.

    1. I used to be too Crisi. My kids think that if I don’t have a coupon for it, then they can’t get it. Crossing fingers my little plan still works when they get older.

  19. I try to avoid supermarket pitfalls by planning out all of my meal plans for the week, then making a very specific grocery list before I head to the store. It works most of the time…although I’m a sucker for good sales on staple items!

  20. This was a good reminder of all the sneakiness at work in the marketing departments of stores . I recently bought some jeggings to try out – I looked terrible in them, but received an email a couple days after I bought them (from walmart) as king if I “liked my new jeggings” and did I “want to try another color?” Omg! Apparently Walmart tracks purchases through debit cards and associates it with your email. Yikes.

    1. Didn’t know about Walmart!!! But I do know about store loyalty cards. Sure they save you money, but the store can also track your purchase. Walmart is pretty sneaking.

  21. This is one of the main reasons why my parents switched to Costco because they can avoid the miscellaneous stuff. And they bought less.

  22. I love the produce section. It’s only $1 a pound for peaches…but then I stock up and it gets very pricey. Thanks for sharing- loved reading this and glad to know I am not the only impulse buyer out there.

    1. Even though I am aware…I sometimes get suckers in too…Just yesterday I bought $0.59 lb Chicken. Who can beat that price? Total Impulse buy, but we eat chicken, right?

  23. I find store marketing to be fascinating – it’s amazing to realize how much thought goes into every box, every shelf, and everything they do in stores. It’s like a challenge to me to “thwart their dastardly plans!” Great fun.

  24. Ugh the Whole Foods Macaroons are right by the registers…just asking me to take them home and indulge. It’s really not fair…

  25. I know I need to start making list in when I go food shopping, I know the #1 rule is to NEVER go shopping hungry, I would be buying that bread I smelled and everything else! Great post!

  26. Great post and very motivational. I am a list maker and always have been and I learned a few things over the years as my late husband was a grocery store manager. Thanks for sharing.

  27. I rarely go to grocery store as we have monthly shopping for buying monthly homemaking and personal product needs, but my husband sometimes stops by the grocery to get some snack. The supermarket often does the trick that may arise consumerism. However, we try hard to avoid that. Kids like being tempted by ice cream ads. Thanks for sharing…

  28. Over the years I have learned to eat right before going to the grocery store so as not to be tempted! If I am the slightest bit hungry, I’m toast. I am a huge sucker for the bakery!

  29. Another thing that causes me to spend more money and get things I don’t need when I shop is whenI shop is shopping with my kids.

  30. I am soooooooooooooooo guilty of letting the store make me do it. I’m the worst when it comes to Walmart. The craft section, always calls out to me, and I don’t want to be rude and ignore it. The same goes for the beauty department. It’s as if I MUST purchase 1 more bottle of nail polish to make my life complete. {SIGH} Sometimes I think if I just had longer legs, I could glide through with my list, bypassing all the wonderful new things on the shelve…fat chance. Now where’s that fresh baked bread?

    1. ha ha Libby you crack me up. It is true..My weakness is Target. I have learned to try to stay far away. Unless there is something I truly need

  31. It’s the sample stations for me (or I should actually say my husband!)! Otherwise, we are REALLY good at sticking to our list and not buying from the end caps – those usually aren’t the best deal. Thanks for this great list of things that the stores try to get you at!

  32. Great post! Yes, them grocery stores know how to suck you in! I’ve never been able to grasp the couponing thing, but I admire people who know how to play the game. I shop at Aldi primarily and occasionally shop at Walmart. I tend to use coupons when we eat out.

  33. Yeah sure the store made you do it – you sound just like my wife after she has done the grocery shopping. Funny when I go grocery shopping armed with my shopping list I seem to spend on average $25-$30 less per week – this is a big saving over the course of a year.

    Also I leave the kids at home as I spend more when they’re with me – pester power works and the supermarkets know it!!

  34. Stores really do a good job of enticing you to buy things. My weakness is sweet treats when they are on special. I wouldn’t buy them at full price, but when that price does down – temptation goes up!

  35. My weakness is picking out a treat for myself for the ride home. Oh, I’ll just have this brownie on the drive…

  36. Luckily, my hubby does most of our shopping because he is better at couponing and finding sales than I am. However, I don’t think there is a certain section of the store that draws me in when I go…I’m just bad about going while I’m hungry…and we all know how stupid of an idea that is!

  37. I’m a list maker, always have been. It keeps me from having the-store-make-me-do-it syndrome. But, I have to admit, on those rare times when I’m not prepared, I never get out with just that gallon of milk. And, I really need to use coupons. I have every intention . . . Thanks for the motivation.

  38. Reading your post made me think — you’re absolutely right! My husband and I have been victims of the “store” for years now. Every time we enter the grocery, we end up buying more stuff (mostly additional chips and junk food)! haha!

    1. Ginger it is so hard at times not to be. I remember coming home with all kinds of stuff that I thought was a good deal, but we didn’t need it and sometimes it went bad. I have learned a bunch and now I can keep to my list and stay on point.

  39. Couponing COMPLETELY changed the way I shop. Before I would go and arbitrarily choose things based on sales and what might like to eat that week and hope that I wasn’t busting the budget.

    Now, I don’t even entertain the idea without my detailed list (figured out down to the dollars and cents), and the specific coupons for that specific purchase. I don’t even shop with my binder. I purchase exactly what’s on my list (and get raincheques for things the store’s out of) and if I happen to notice a great unadvertised deal I make note and will sometimes make a second trip to the stores if the deals are good enough. (And there’s a little left at the end of my budget). If I have no reason to buy a bakery item, you won’t even find me near it.

    Amazing what happens when you shop with intent and purpose.

    1. Intent and purpose….a women on a mission to save. LOVE IT!! I am glad that you don’t fall for those darn marketing tactics that make you end up purchasing more items then you need.

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