The Psychology Behind a Grocery Store’s Layout

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Psychology plays a role in consumer behavior

Retail managers understand there is a science behind a store’s floor plan and how consumers shop. Focus groups, sales data and general psychology have helped managers understand shopper habits, which have led to the formulation of effective floor plans and shelf layouts. Groceries nationwide use the same basic layout principles to create a general flow to their stores that keeps customers efficiently moving through the aisles and spending money.

Welcome to a Sensory Experience

grocery store psychologyMost groceries welcome shoppers with a full sensory experience upon entering the store. The entryway is designed to be inviting so it reinforces a positive customer retail response. Most managers place their sensory departments, including the bakery, produce and florist at the front of the store. These departments are known to activate the shopper’s salivary glands through sight, smell and taste, which entice them to spend money on things that weren’t necessarily on their list. These departments operate on high margins and depend on effectively drawing customers by stimulating their senses.

  • Bakery: The wafting smell of freshly baked breads, cakes and cookies causes a psychological reaction that makes shoppers hungry, which often causes them to buy more.
  • Produce: The bright colors of produce excite the eye and tempt the shopper to purchase more produce.
  • Flowers: The floral department is nearly always located by the entryway as it boosts the store’s image in the shopper’s mind through the bright colors and fragrant smells.

Stocking the produce, bakery and florist at the front of the store creates the perception that the store is filled with fresh products and encourages shopper confidence in the store.

The Back Is Packed with Staples

There is no such thing as a quick trip to a grocery store. Grocery stores stock the items shoppers buy most often at the back of the store, forcing them to travel through other tempting aisles to pick up the essentials. Items such as meat, eggs, dairy and bread are strategically placed in the back of the store, making it hard for shoppers to resist grabbing other items when making a quick trip to the grocery.

Follow the Perimeter

Grocery managers want to maximize your time in their store by having you travel down as many aisles as possible. Crafting an efficient floor plan with an expertly stocked perimeter keeps shoppers moving through the entire store and pausing at strategic stops along the way, including end-caps. End-cap placement usually comes with an additional fee to the manufacturer; however, these manufacturers often see a high return on their investment as these placements encourage the perception of value and prestige in products.

Many groceries will also locate the one-stop service centers at various locations along the perimeter of a store, including delis, banks, coffee shops and the pharmacy. The convenience of these locations keeps shoppers coming back for the services as well as their groceries.

The Stacked Center Aisles

The center aisles are the heart of any grocery store and are where most of the general goods are located. The center aisles help weave shoppers deeper into the store and are strategically stocked to get the shopper to buy costly name-brand goods.

What’s Behind the Shelving?

Shopper psychology doesn’t only lie in the layout of the store; the way shelves are stocked also has tremendous impact on a shopper’s buying habits.

  • Bottom shelf: Store brands and other generic brands are located on the bottom shelf, the shelf that is out of eye sight. Bulk items also find their on the bottom shelf. Grocery managers know that savvy shoppers will search for a deal so there is no need to waste prominent shelf space on these products.
  • Top shelf: Local, gourmet and smaller brands are placed on the top shelf.
  • Middle shelf: Middle shelf space is considered the bulls-eye zone, the location that falls perfectly in the shopper’s line of sight. This shelf stocks the leading brands and best sellers. Some groceries will sell this prime stocking location to manufactures for a fee.
  • Kids’ shelf: Grocery managers understand that children often drive a family’s grocery purchases. Kid-friendly products are placed in direct line sight of children.

Understanding consumer psychology can help a retail manager increase profits through strategic and efficient floor plans and shelf stocking arrangements.

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