What is... | May 21, 2013

What is the shopping list effect?

Going to the supermarket is part of the weekly routine for many people. But so is the temptation to buy extra, delicious looking items while doing the regular shop.

Perhaps surprisingly, a lot of research has been done in this area and simple steps, such as making a shopping list ahead of time, appear to make a big difference for those who want to resist temptation and avoid last minute deals at the check-out.

List to cutting down
Store layouts, slogans, promotions and even smells are designed to encourage shoppers to spend.
Pressure to buy could be increased by items being discounted for a very short time only, by offering free samples or delivery or perhaps by strategically placing particular items at the checkout or at eye-height in aisles. Such strategies can also apply to online shops, with an experiment finding that web users are drawn to items displayed in the middle of a row.

“Out of store” planning
As simple as it sounds, making a list before shopping is an effective way to keep on track.
Dubbed “out-of-store” planning, academics Art Thomas and Ron Garland published “conclusive” findings that written shopping lists significantly reduce average spending. In addition, the New Zealand researchers wrote those with a list also finished shopping more quickly.
In the United States, research by academic Roy Baumeister highlights how shopping lists remove the need for making decisions, which can in turn reduce impulse purchases and help shoppers resist in-store “bargains”.
In an eZonomics poll, more than half of the respondents recognised they spend less when grocery shopping if they had a list.

Who’s listing?
Going shopping with children produces the opposite effect of a shopping list, according to the New Zealand study; shoppers accompanied by children tend to take longer and spend more.
But a separate study by the pair found that households with children are more likely to use shopping lists – so perhaps they are wise to the situation.
They also found that women are more likely to use a shopping list than men (71% for women, 59% for men). And that popular reasons to use a list were to prompt the shopper to get all the goods needed as well as to control how much they spent.

Overcome the card
Cashless payments such as credit and debit cards are becoming more popular and are an easy choice when going shopping.
Spending on cards option requires little “effort”, research suggests, and might lead to more impulse shopping and unplanned spending.
However, there’s good news for those with shopping lists as a study says those who prepare them, even if they use credit cards, are less susceptible to impulse urges.


eZonomics team
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