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Retail Store Advertisement Strategies





It is not uncommon to hear a friend, colleague, or relative discuss about how they went to the store to purchase X and returned after buying X and Y (sometimes just Y!). The reasoning for such an unplanned buy is usually attributed to the store’s deal, offer, or sale. Sometimes, these ads serve as helpful reminders, while at other times, the budget that the shopper had is forgotten and the store’s advertising folks win the day. Here’s a look at some of the typical offerings that catch shoppers in a moment of weakness.

The Discount/Sale

This is a ubiquitous occurrence – words such as discount (or reduced), special sale, etc. are used to lure the shopper into purchasing an item. Nonetheless, unless the consumer knows the typical price for that item at that store and, more importantly, at a competitor, the deal does not become an automatic win for the buyer.

If the product was always priced higher than a competitor, then the new discount price may still be end up being higher than the competitor. As an example, if I see a Google Nexus or Kindle Fire HD for less than $199, I can recognize that I’m getting a deal (I’m not sure if that price is applicable in Canada though) but the reason for my awareness is due to the fact that I have been researching alternative (to iPad) tablets. However, give me another item such as a laptop or camera and I might be lost; so, conducting some research becomes essential. Also, one should beware of warranties that may be offered at the time of payment – the total price may not remain that great after including such addons.

The Limited Time Offer

Most of these lower prices are only offered for a short period of time, thereby creating a sense of urgency and limiting the time available for a consumer to do their due diligence. Many shoppers may rush into the purchase since they believe that the deal may never be offered again, which is seldom true. The deal does come back unless it is a limited edition item but delayed gratification is not easy.

Strategic Placement of Products

Higher-priced (or higher margin) products are typically placed on eye-level shelves to entice the consumer to purchase the easy-to-pick items. Also, during rush times, people are probably more inclined to buy the item they took so long to get to after wading through the holiday shopping crowd. The premise here is “all that hard work needs to be rewarded after all”.

I remember an incident at an American Eagle Outfitters store during Christmas season: there was a lineup to get into the store (over 100 people – separate lines for men and women). I did not buy anything despite their deals after managing to get into the store but I am not thrilled that I actually waited in line to look at their offerings (must have had too much time to kill!).

The Door Busters

During the holiday season, stores sometimes offer steep discounts on a limited number of units of a certain item. For example, door busters may include a 30% discount on 10 couches, 10% discount on 20 iPads, etc. Evidently, the first-come get served first during such seasonal promotions.

These deals may be truly great for such people but the store’s hidden agenda involves the hope that the other consumers who were not fast enough to be among the elite will still purchase the item they came in for at the regular price (or at least another similar but cheaper item) to avoid going home empty-handed and probably disappoint a family member who is waiting for it.

Temptations near the Till

We would be remiss to miss the items placed near the checkout counter: for example, magazines with celebrities adorning the cover talking about how they lost weight, gushing about their latest love, etc. Most of the topics that get published on the cover of such magazines are relevant to the average consumer and hence, the allure to pick one up, though such a magazine may never be glanced at beyond the drive back home (assuming the buyer is a passenger!) or browsed once for a few minutes after getting home. Of course, there are more items like gum, chocolate bars, etc. that are displayed at the time of paying for the main purchase(s) for our convenience.

What are the other advertising/marketing tactics that you can think of? Any great timing (“needed item, found deal”) stories?

About the Author: Clark works in Saskatchewan and has been working to build his (DIY) investment portfolio, structured for an early retirement. He loves reading (and using the lessons learned) about personal finance, technology and minimalism. You can read his other articles here.





3 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. 1. SST

    “What are the other advertising/marketing tactics that you can think of?”

    The great marketing scheme of the financial industry that we all need $1,000,000 to retire comes to mind. That’s been fairly successful for them over the decades.

  2. These are some good pointers. I am aware of most of these even though I still buy stuff I don’t need anyway. i never really though about randomly walking into a store not knowing their normal prices and buying something for a ‘discount’ that’s not really a discount.

    marketing is one tricky thing that will eventually get us all. But it helps to know what to look out for and try to be on top of your deal game.

  3. 3. nobleea

    I pay particular attention on food items for things like this.
    Over the past 5-10 years, I’ve come to know what a ‘good deal’ is on certain things, like cereal, pasta, and other non-perishable goods. When they come close to that price, I stock up.
    Some stores (like Safeway, IGA, Sobeys) have these ‘sales’, maybe even 2 for 1 or 3 for 2 which look like a good deal, but are still more expensive than the low price standard. And when I think about how often things go on sale at stores like that, its crazy to think about how much money is wasted.

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