Lost in the Supermarket: Men Without Lists
Men are shopping more, but women still make the grocery decisions.
Marketers -- the people who study and implement retail selling
-- know a lot about how men and women shop. They know who's making the shopping
lists. So they mostly market to women.
"Manufacturers and distributors and grocery stores do a lot
of things to maximize their profit per square inch of shelf and, hopefully, to
increase customer satisfaction," Mick says. "They are not idiots. They
do a lot of research. They track a lot of data. They know who their loyal
customers are. They use this information to set up the store to be
But even the best marketers and consumer psychologists that
money can buy don't ensure that you'll buy everything a supermarket has to
"Do they have this down to a science so that they push
everybody's button all the time? No," Mick says. "It is easy to go to
an extreme thinking that marketers and grocers know things the psychologists
don't even know about getting us to buy things. I don't think they have figured
out things quite that much."
It's a highly competitive marketplace with razor-thin profit
margins. Supermarkets focus on the bottom line, says Wesley Hutchinson, PhD,
the Stephen J. Heyman Professor and professor of marketing at the Wharton
School of the University of Pennsylvania and past president of the Association
for Consumer Research.
"The grocery is trying to do a lot of things, and a lot of
it is based on efficiency," Hutchinson tells WebMD. "They want to keep
their loyal customers and they want to get people in and out as fast as
possible. In the meantime, they try to sell you some things. They're trying to
move a lot of volume through the store as fast as they can."
About 80% of grocery store purchases are straight rebuys, says
Herbert Jack Rotfeld, PhD, professor of marketing at Auburn University and
editor of the Journal of Consumer Affairs. That means we have a good
chance of emerging from the grocery store without too much overbuying.
"I am optimistic about people's ability to handle
things," Rotfeld tells WebMD. "People go in with their coupons and
their lists. It's not a free-for-all."
Getting More From the Store
Rotfeld's optimism notwithstanding, there's lots of room for
error. That's because two-thirds of our grocery-shopping decisions are made
in the store, says Barbara E. Kahn, PhD, director of the Wharton
undergraduate division and Dorothy Silberberg Professor of Marketing at The
Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
"People come in with a general idea of what they are going
to buy, but their lists tend to be vague," Kahn tells WebMD. "When
decisions are made in the store, you are vulnerable to cues such as corner
displays, big red 'Value!' arrows, and other in-store merchandising."