groceries

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From the Chicago Tribune:

“There’s a reason why produce and often the bakery are the first sections you hit,” Underhill explained. “First of all, the produce section tends to be lit theatrically, so that everything looks better in the store than it ever will when you get it home. Almost every supermarket knows that if they can get your saliva glands working, you will tend to buy more. So there’s a reason why the bakery is up front, or the flowers are up front.”

The dairy case is usually way in the back as a way to pull the shopper as deeply into the store as possible.

“The dairy section has both the highest number of … shoppers and historically has the highest conversion rate,” Underhill said. “There are very few people that go look at milk and not buy it.”

So on your way to getting the milk, you walk through the middle of the store 5 — historically where the tougher-to-sell items are displayed — past jumbo olives and potato chips that you had no intention of buying. But seeing them on the shelves …

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In economics, complementary goods are goods where the demand schedules move together. Typically, complementary goods are used together. A classic example is hot dogs and hot dog buns. If the price of hot dogs rises, the demand for dogs falls. So does the demand for buns.

In choice architecture economics, the Nudge blog proposes that complementary goods are also goods frequently used in combination, and goods whose arrangement together can promote better decision making.

Consider the following humorous example at a grocery store. Beer and condoms. Two things that belong side-by-side. (Hat tip: Kelly Carter)

Addendum: Jodi Beggs spots more complementary goods over at the Consumerist. Beer and ping pong balls (for beer pong, of course). The link is below in the comment section, but this photo is too perfect.

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Using canvas shopping bags at the grocery story instead of the usual paper or plastic ones is one small way to help save the planet. Many companies have adopted strategies for encouraging people to bring their own bags from home by giving small rebates, charging small fees for plastic bags, or placing displays for reusable bags near the checkout counter.

Reader Will Katz sends along another approach stores may want to consider using. Instead of asking customers if they want to use “Paper or plastic?” Katz suggests that clerks tweak the question by asking “Paper, plastic, or personal?” He says there are lots of advantages.

-It costs nothing to implement.

-It plants the seed of an idea in shoppers’ minds and reinforces it every time they shop.

-It keeps the alliteration, making it more memorable.

-As more people got in the habit, bag usage would extend to other stores or shopping situations.

-If the supermarket provided canvas bags for sale at the checkout area, implementation would be immediate.

And if supermarkets didn’t provide canvas bags in the checkout aisle (say, because the markup on candy is a lot better), reminding the customer about reusable bags would still be a worthy service.

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Ocado, a U.K. grocery delivery service operates a green van that allows shoppers to take delivery at times when a delivery truck is already planning to be in their neighborhood. The screen shot below shows green vans for delivery stops that are already scheduled in this user’s neighborhood. We hope Peapod, which may be familiar to our American readers, is paying attention.

For customers who want to be green, but find alternative times more convenient, an additional option to this service could be allowing customers to select two times, a green time, and a convenient but non-green back-up time. Customers would agree to take delivery from the van that is already in their neighborhood at a given time, but would have their delivery changed to the back-up time (which is more convenient for them, but not as green) if a minimum of, say, four customers also chose it as their back-up time.

Hat tip: Rory Sutherland.

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