Ok, I can’t be the only one that makes a Target run to buy a toothbrush and ends up spending two months rent plus utilities……and forgetting the toothbrush (*facepalm*). What is it about this magical store that turns you into a real life “Shut Up and Take My Money” meme? Sidenote- if you’ve never seen Futurama I highly recommend you check it out during this quarantine season. Today, I am going where no one has gone before (except almost every media outlet ever) and examine how Target makes us throw money around like its payday and we’re at the club.
Come and hang out for a while with your friend Target
Do you ever walk past the Starbucks in the front of Target and think “you know what, I’m a little tired I should just grab a coffee since it’s right there” and then sip it while you leisurely stroll through the aisles? I know that I have more times than I’m willing to admit. Knowingly or not, through this act you’re falling right into one of Target’s ploys. One of their goals is to make the store as comfortable and inviting as possible so people will be enticed to stay longer. Why? You guessed it, the longer you spend at a store the more likely you are to buy more stuff.
Clever placement of goods (especially impulse buys)
Target truly is a one stop shop for anything you may need. Ever since they introduced groceries a few years ago, why would you need to go anywhere else for your shopping needs? Sometimes it even seems like they act like autocorrect for your mind. In the market for a new planner? Well, you need new pens to write in your new planner, right? How convenient, they’re right next to each other! Next thing you know, you bought a planner plus 3 packs of pens because having black ink, blue ink, and a multicolored pack makes for the best writing experience, right?
Professor of Marketing at NYU, Tom Meyvis, summarized this tactic with the following quote:
“Stores have an idea about the path [shoppers take]. Walmart was once famous for doing things like putting Band-Aids next to fishing hooks and things like that. Something you don’t naturally associate, but once you see them there, it makes sense. So when people come in for something in one category, you can cross-sell, you can sell them something that compliments in the next product category by making sure they’re right next to each other.”
The scattered clearance sections
There have been many times where I’ve been shopping at Target and randomly come across a clearance section. While most stores have one to two designated clearance sections Target’s seem to be arbitrarily scattered throughout the store. However, the placement is not random; it’s been strategically planned by the marketing team. Even if you make a bee line for the sale section you often have to walk past a few other end caps before you make it there. As you walk past the inviting displays something might catch your eye–and grab your wallet. Have you ever seen something in clearance and thought “it’s only $5” before throwing it in your cart? Of course we all have, just as Target wants us to.
Target is known for their collaborations. They’ve released collections with industry powerhouses such as Lily Pulitzer, Zac Posen, and Missoni. Target knows that some of fashion’s biggest names combined with a price tag the masses can afford is sure to appeal to their customers. But here’s the catch with these Target exclusives: they only have limited quantities for a limited time. This principle of scarcity instills in their customers the thought that “if I don’t buy now, I’ll never have the chance again!” So what if you don’t need a new dress, if you hesitate too long it’ll be gone!
The business of happiness
Do you ever walk into a Target store and just feel happier? Welcome to Target’s neurological con job. It’s well-lit, there’s cool products, the staff is friendly, and it’s super colorful. All the makings of a mood lifter that encourages people to take off their coat, stay a while, and maybe spend a down payment’s worth on useless stuff.
Has researching for this article opened my eyes to Target’s brilliant tactics? Yes. Will I try to be more mindful while shopping there? Maybe. Will I continue to throw shameful amounts of money at them? Oh, most definitely.