What roles do the design and layout of a Supermarket play in affecting and increasing the up-sell of products?

Keywords (5):

Consumer behaviour

Rationale (254/250):

To the untrained eye, Supermarkets appear as nothing more than what they are defined as; “a large self-service shop selling foods and household goods” (Dictionary, 2018). There are several extraneous variables and factors that subconsciously affect and illustrate how customers spend their money within supermarkets. From simple elements such as the speed and genre of the music playing, to the strategic placement of products implanted next to the checkout becoming recognised as “essential purchases” that customers are less likely to turn down due to being bombarded by them. Supermarkets also tend to offer a fresh bakery smell to not only trigger memories of those crisp yummy croissants everyone admits to demolishing on those family holidays to France (BBC, 2018) but it is also said to activate the salivary glands increasing the likeliness of customers to make impulse purchases (Lubin, 2011).

These marketing skills are consistently used throughout several chains of supermarkets and even the most “necessary” items are believed to be needed while shopping. An example would be shopping carts; they aid in the increase of business due to the large space available, allowing and making room for mass amounts of products to be purchased (Lubin, 2011).

I became fascinated with this idea that every scheme within the supermarket industry has been perfectly calibrated to achieve greater increase of business each year. Through this research essay, I will not only educate myself about the mechanics behind brainwashing consumers but also hope to learn so that these strategies can be applied to how I advertise my current work.

Methodology (272/250):

I plan to inspect and analyse several supermarkets first hand and will focus essentially on primary data by using an approach combined from qualitative and quantitative data. Qualitative data has been described as “concerned with understanding human behaviour from the informants behaviour” whereas quantitative becomes “concerned with discovering facts about social phenomena” (McLeod, 2017). Through interviewing employees, examining similarities and marketing attitudes as well as creating sample groups, the evaluation of exploration techniques will become easier allowing the findings to be categorised to a decent representative of the target population however, secondary data will also be required. Unfortunately, not every supermarket can be evaluated but by using both, a more complex understanding will develop and have the ability to apply to a larger audience.

Already having relationships within my local Sainsbury’s is beneficial as the conversations curated will lose most bias. The employees are no longer trying to impress me and feel comfortable expressing how they feel. I am recognised as a friend solely before a purchaser which has blocked them to acknowledge me as “stupid shopper”. Blythman (2007, p. 44) described a “stupid shopper” as a customer that comes off as “desperate and in need of of the tutoring that only supermarkets can supply”. With me, their main goal isn’t to try and sell a product but rather find out how my day was. This allows me to have a real conversations and understand their personal opinions about the marketing strategies used.

Although I will be focusing on Supermarkets entirely, I do believe the actions learned can be applied favourably to several businesses such as the tourist industry including hotels, museums and galleries.

Literature review (975/974):

So again, what is the purpose of a Supermarket? The supermarket business has progressed over the last couple years due to their way of prioritising. Although they have been identified as “self-service shops selling fundamental goods” (Dictionary, 2018), they have also developed into what one would call “a one-stop shop”. Seth and Randall stated (2011, p.168) “Shoppers have gained many concrete advantages: a huge range of products, sourced from all over the world; a one-stop shop, where this range is gathered in one place, increasingly with other services such as pharmacies, dry cleaning, access to cash, a post office and petrol”. Supermarket workers have realised that by creating a destination which fills every customers desire and need, it will produce a massive increase in sales because they will no longer need to shop anywhere else! Not only will customers become more reliant on their services but they can also become influenced into buying more items in the mean time.

Shelley L. Koch investigated the concept of grocery shopping within America and admits that the layout of the store is what most customers will follow; “Once the shopper has reached the parking lot, the design of the store ushers her through the automatic doors, where she grabs her shopping cart and then follows the layout of the store” (Koch p. 13, 2012).


Image 1: Generalised blueprint of a supermarket (Independent, 2012)

The layout of a Supermarket is considered a universal trait within this industry because throughout my research, I have recognised that several Supermarkets use this tactic of having the fresh produce the first thing customers see as they enter into the store. The environment design of supermarkets is said to influence the consumers behaviour as it allows them to be put in a better mood, increasing the chances of more money being spent (The Conversation, 2014). Seth and Randall also discuss the layout of a store and agree that the fruitage is what sets the atmosphere of the store; “Entering the supermarket, she is confronted by the fresh produce section (her husband has told her that it is designed to give an aura of freshness and authenticity to the whole store, but to her it’s just the fruit and veg)” (2011, p.11).

Nonetheless, this is not the only arrangement that has been carefully assessed to result in customers buying more things. Upon entering and walking down the isles of a supermarket, customers are harassed with signs full of offers stating “2 for the price of 1” or the interest of buying a pack of makeup wipes worth £3 individually in a bulk set of 3 at the price of £6 instead, saving £3 all together. Tactics like this cheat and allow the shopper to feel in charge and that they are really getting their moneys worth when in reality, they do not actually need 3 packs of makeup wipes and have ended up spending more money than intended. Negotiations like this have personally caught my attention before and it is said the average British household spends about £1480 a year on promotions (Quality Food Awards, 2018). This demonstrates that good deals are hard to pass up especially when the layout and design works in favour of them, blocking out the con of more money being spent by constantly bragging that it is a bargain no one can afford to miss. 

Due to the uprise of competition within this diligent industry, popular supermarkets such as Asda have created a marketing arrangement which included a videoed advert. This advert highlighted comparisons between the prices of their items in contrast to the same item sold by other convenience stores such as Tesco or Morrisons. The video (Vol Pi, 2010) displays Asda’s claim to have 1,115 cheaper products than Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury’s combined. These particular supermarkets have also come up with similar strategies to each other to “extract the best deal”. Blythman highlighted Tesco’s slogan of being “committed to maintaining strong mutually advantageous relationships with our suppliers” comparing to Asda’s “belief in good relationships which we work to improve all the time” and Sainsbury’s “we are very proud of the good relationships we have with our suppliers” (2007, p. 142). It seems as though each supermarket hold the same goal, they refuse to admit sounding identical to each other.

Comparing the supermarkets today to supermarkets ten years ago, a lot of changes have been made to improve their customer service. Their sensory and visual designs have upgraded massively to get, as Parker would say, “shoppers to shop faster” (2017, p.140). Self checkouts have cut the long lines as well as put more ease on the workers due to less customer demands. The size of a store is also relevant as “One reason our stores can be small is that each week we stock only a few impulse goods. We limit our stocks, so that they are sold out in a week or two. We do it to tip the balance, for shoppers to come back each week.” (p. 82, 2017) This tricky method allows to shopper to make shopping for certain goods a weekly routine.

In conclusion, by opening an investigation into the food shopping cooperation, I intend to find out whether the design plan of a supermarket can produce positive outcomes on both ends of the consumer and the producer as well as the overall significance on the consumers behaviour. Throughout my development, I am determined to expand my knowledge on not only the construction of a shop but the psychology behind every decision made and aim to establish a personal contribution in these discussions. So finally, what roles do the design and layout of a Supermarket play in affecting and increasing the up-sell of products and are they superficially set up resulting in them being more cost effective and dangerous than worth it? The answer is they play a huge hidden agenda, one that I have yet to explore and hold the ability to psychology control any customers mind.


BBC (2018) How Do Supermarkets Tempt You to Spend More Money? Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/z27yg82 (Accessed: 14 May 2018).

Blythman, J. (2007) Shopped: The shocking power of Britain’s supermarkets. London: Harper Perennial.

Dictionary (2018) Supermarket. Available at: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/supermarket (Accessed: 14 May 2018).

Independent (2012) Untitled 1. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/the-secrets-of-our-supermarkets-8228864.html (Downloaded: 12 May 2018).

Koch, S.L. (2012) A Theory of Grocery Shopping: Food, Choice and Conflict. Berg Publishers.

Lubin, G. (2011) 15 Ways Supermarkets Trick You into Spending More Money. Available at: http://www.businessinsider.com/supermarkets-make-you-spend-money-2011-7?IR=T (Accessed: 5 May 2018).

McLeod, S. (2017) Qualitative vs. Quantitative. Available at: https://www.simplypsychology.org/qualitative-quantitative.html (Accessed: 20 March 2018).

Parker, G.N.C. (2017) UK Supermarket wars 2014-2020; How it started, who’s winning, and why. Great Britain: Plain Press Limited.

Quality Food Awards (2018) Promotional deals on the wane, as grocery retails shift to everyday low pricing. Available at: https://qualityfoodawards.com/news/promotional-deals-on-the-wane-as-grocery-retailers-shift-to-everyday-low-pricing-02-12-2016/ (Accessed: 15 May 2018).

Seth, A. and Randall, G. (2011) The Grocers: The rise and rise of the supermarket chains. London: Kogan Page, third edition.

The Conversation (2014) The science that makes us spend more money in Supermarkets, and feel good while we do it. Available at: http://theconversation.com/the-science-that-makes-us-spend-more-in-supermarkets-and-feel-good-while-we-do-it-23857 (Accessed: 16 May 2018).

Vol Pi (2010) Asda Price Compare with Tesco, Morrisons ETC. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_w2Sd01NKHk (Accessed: 15 May 2018).

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