Do you end up with a cart full of stuff when you run into Target just to buy one thing? You’re in good company and there’s a reason you wind up with way more than paper towels, and it’s not just a lack of self-control. There’s even an actual term for our Target addiction, the “Target Effect,” which is what we’ve all experienced - leaving the store with many more items than we planned on buying.
It’s actually a form of what they call the Gruen Transfer in psychology, which is a strategy retailers use to intentionally overwhelm shoppers to get them to buy more. It helps to turn our goal-oriented trip into a shopping spree and Target has several strategies they use to do this:
- They tap into the desire to “treat yourself” - Target makes us feel good while we shop, so we think of it as a reward instead of a chore. It involves strategically placed colors, sounds, discounts and deals that distract us and disrupt our decision-making process. And it starts with the Starbucks right inside the door, so we stroll around with our coffee picking up pillows, candles that smell too good to put back and we tell ourselves that we deserve it.
- The stores are also strategically set up - Target stores are designed to get us to spend more time roaming around shopping. The wide aisles and flow of departments keeps us going, adding items to our carts along the way. Target isn’t the only one doing this, many retailers do, including Costco.
- They use intriguing displays and layouts - To get us to buy specific items, Target draws our attention to “must have” items. So even when we only come in for cat litter and detergent, we have a hard time resisting those eye-catching displays and end up with impulse purchases.
- To fight the Target Effect - Make a list and stick to it, no matter how hard it is. Also try to avoid shopping when you’re hungry or in a low mood, as that’s when we tend to make more impulse buys.