Sept. 23, 2011— -- The next time you take your weekly trip to the grocery store, take a look around you. It turns out all of the minute details -- the fresh flowers greeting you in the entrance, the shining vegetables on the tables -- may all be ploys by the supermarket to get you to spend more than you thought you would.
"We're priming the shopper to tune in to a kind of experience," said Liz Crawford, author of "The Shopper Economy." "It's fall, it's a farmer's market. ... We're here at the farm stand."
Soon, you're immersed in the aisles, where items the store wants you to pair together are strategically placed next to each other. Next to the barrel of apples, for example, is caramel.
"So while I'm buying the apples, I'm thinking, 'Oh, you know, I could also buy some a caramel and have caramel apples. Great idea.' Now I've got an impulse buy," she said. "That's a cross-sell."
The products you see, where they are displayed, even what you smell can all be a part of a sophisticated, market-tested method to get you to buy.
The apples, sitting in their pretty little baskets, look like they're straight from the farm. They put you in a pleasant mood, thinking of autumn. That's what they call a "symbolic."
Vegetables also are staged to excite the senses. They are sprayed with water every few minutes -- giving them a fragrant smell and a glistening appearance. Nearby, the cheese stand is loaded with choices so you have to linger to find the exact kind you want.
"So while I may have come for some feta, wow, here's some crumble bleu cheese, which I can have as an alternative in my salad during the day," said Crawford.
Another means of persuasion is packing food in ice.
"It signals to the shopper, 'Hey, this is perishable. It's perishable right now,'" said Crawford. "Now's the time to pick it."
Shoppers tend to stay on the edges of the store, circling around counter-clockwise. Retailers sometimes place an eye-catching sale item near the track.
"Once I get enticed down the aisle, the chances I'll buy something go up dramatically," she said.
Shopper Sharon McCain said she was influenced to buy something she didn't intend to. She didn't come to the store to buy apples -- but still left the store with some.
"Well, they were stacked up and looked good," she said. "So I bought some apples."