Why is the dairy case always in the back of the store? It's to make sure shoppers have to pass through aisles of items they don't need in order to get to the quart of milk they came for.
Nothing in the layout of a retail store is random, from the baskets of enticing new products near the entrance to the packs of gum around the cash register.
There are two main triggers that will make shoppers spend more money in a store: The amount of time they spend walking the aisles and how much direct contact they have with the merchandise or the salespeople, says Pam Danziger, president of consulting firm Unity Marketing.
Armed with those simple guidelines, retailers have come up with at least a half-dozen tricky tactics to amp up shoppers' bills:
"Free" services: MIni-makeovers at the make-up counter, free in-store tastings at the wine shop or how-to classes at the home improvement center are all meant to sell more merchandise. After investing their own time -- and that of the salesperson -- most people, it turns out, will feel obligated to buy at least some of the products sampled. "Anything that will get people to spend more time, talk more and touch the merchandise is more likely to get them to buy," Danziger says. "That's the role of the special event."
The whole look: When IKEA shows off a complete room with furniture, rugs, lamps and homey nick-nacks, it's not just to make the display look nicer. Showing off a whole room arrangement in a furniture store -- or a fully-accessorized outfit at a clothes store -- creates a picture in the shoppers' imagination and encourages him or her spend more on the final sale, says Nikoleta Panteva, retail analyst at consulting firm IBISWorld.
Smells like money: Believe it or not, but some stores actually pump in scents to relax shoppers and put them in a buying mood. Macy's (M) Bloomingdale's department stores turned to a North Carolina-based company called ScentAir Technologies to create different aromas for its various departments: Baby powder for infant apparel, lilac in intimates and coconut for swimsuits. Sony Corp.'s (SNE) Sony Style stores pump a citrus-and-vanilla combo to ease the sticker shock of that 3-D flat-screen TV.
BOGO: Buy-one-get-one offers look great on signs, but most work out to be at best 50% off -- no better than the clearance rack. Most are buy-one-get-one-half-off offers, which is actually a mere 25% discount off the full price. But shoppers are conditioned to look for sales, like the recent buy-1-get-2-suits offer at Jos. A. Bank Clothiers (JOSB), says Panteva. These offers have a proven ability to drive people into the stores and get them to spend more than they planned. That's why there are so many big "Buy One Get One" signs in stores these days.
Name that tune: That soft jazz/folk/alternative playlist at Starbucks (SBUX) is no coincidence. It's meant to make you linger over your latte and order a second. Studies have shown that slow-tempo music slows down shoppers and makes them spend more time in the store. Another study in the U.K. found shoppers bought more French wine when "French" accordion music played in the store, and more German wines when a "German" oompah-pah band played on.
Hello there: That greeter by the door at Home Depot (HD), offering store flyers and shopping carts, isn't there by chance. Talking to a store employee on a personal level makes shoppers more likely to buy, says Danziger. Too bad many stores waste that opportunity by not making those conversations meaningful, she says; staff training is crucial to make this work.
Even Danziger is not immune to a good sales pitch: She recently went to a department store for moisturizer and also bought $50 worth of lipstick, gloss and lip liner after a sales woman struck up a conversation about the pink shade of her jacket.
"It's not enough to just force people to walk around (the store)," says Danziger. "In this day and age, when anybody can find anything they want ... it's more about how you sell than what you sell." Luckily big retailers have lots of sneaky tricks to help get those registers ringing.
Take the first steps to building your portfolio.View Course »