Do you consider yourself a smart shopper? You probably spend hours at the grocery store comparing prices, scouring for deals, and asking the staff for possible discounts. That’s great! But no matter how smart you think you are, you’ve probably encountered clever marketing tactics or ploys that tricked you into exceeding your budget. It’s okay, we’ve all been there.
These marketing tactics may not be illegal in nature, but they do trick shoppers into spending money that they may or may not have. To give you and other consumers a fair advantage, here’s a list of clever strategies you need to be wary of on your next grocery run.
Table of Contents
Buy Now, Pay Later
Out of all the marketing tactics, this one’s the most enticing. After all, you’re basically getting what you want without spending money on the spot. On paper, a buy now, pay later program is a convenient way to pay for a purchase, especially for big-ticket items. The problem is that most of us only focus on the “buy now” part and completely ignore the “pay later” part.
That is, until it’s too late. Whether you signed up for a store’s installment program or you availed one using your credit card, going the buy now, pay later route entails financial responsibility and discipline on your part. Make sure you have the means to pay for it in the future. Otherwise, just earn enough money to buy the things you need or want without relying on credit.
Buy One, Take One
If we’re ranking marketing tactics based on attractiveness, then this one takes the cake. It’s basically the concept of paying for the piece of one. The problem is that it’s not usually the case. Most of the time, the item with the buy one, take one promo has an inflated price. In some instances, the promo price is the same as the normal price multiplied by two.
But because your brain is convinced that the second one is free, you end up buying more than you need. You’ll spot this marketing tactic mostly on grocery stores. Restaurants also employ this tactic but with the exact promo mechanics usually hidden in tiny asterisks.
The 99 Pricing Strategy
You’re eyeing two hats at your favorite fashion store. The one is priced at PHP 500 while the other one’s at PHP 499. Which one is more enticing to buy? If you said the latter, then you fell to the trap of the 99 pricing strategy. While PHP 499 is technically cheaper than PHP 500, the difference is so insignificant that you won’t be saving that much money.
Researchers Maoj Thomas and Vicki Morwitz presented a theory in the Journal of Consumer Research that explains this phenomenon. “Nine-ending prices will be perceived to be smaller than a price one cent higher if the left-most digit changes to a lower level,” they explained. So don’t let those 99 digits fool you—if it’s too expensive for you, don’t buy it.
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“New and Improved”
The smartphone market thrives in this particular marketing tactic. Ever noticed how smartphone makers churn out new models every six months? By adding more features and touting their products as better than the last one, they influence consumers to feel bad about their current device. As a result, everyone pines for the new one when they clearly don’t have to.
As much as possible, don’t fall for this trap. Always stick with what you have or stay loyal to a brand you trust the most. Don’t buy something just because it’s new—buy it because you believe in the brand, the product, and your ability to make the most out of your purchase.
Stay Smart and Vigilant
More companies will try their hardest to get to your hard-earned cash. While it’s inevitable that you will spend money on anything, the least you could do is spend it wisely. Always stay smart and vigilant when it comes to shopping. Be aware of these marketing tactics and learn how to avoid them. You’ll definitely feel smarter than you were the last time.
This article first appeared in The Manila Times.
-  The Left-Digit Effect: Why Game Prices End in .99 (Psychology Today, 2013)
Ricky is the zaniest Senior Content Writer at Moneymax, with over five years of writing experience in the digital marketing industry. He is a huge fan of pro wrestling, smartphones, and binge-watching. Follow Ricky on LinkedIn.