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Can the type of cart you use really help you save money when shopping?


Can retailers make you spend more money by redesigning carts? Research finds that a single handlebar activates the ‘negative’ triceps muscle associated with ‘rejection’ – but the ‘handcart’ design targets the ‘positive’ biceps

  • A new study looks at how the type of cart you use affects what you buy
  • According to the researchers, it’s all about the handlebar design
  • Standard horizontal strollers work the triceps involved in things we don’t like
  • The use of biceps has been activated with a new handle design, which is related to the things we love










Research suggests that supermarkets can get customers to share more money by changing the look of their shopping carts.

A study, led by the Bays School of Business, City University of London, looked at how the use of different cart styles affects purchasing decisions.

The authors Professor Zachary Estes and Mathias Streicher tested traditional horizontal handlebars (as found in most supermarkets), against a new design with parallel handles (similar to those on a wheelbarrow), which are not currently used in supermarkets.

They found that shoppers spent an average of 25 percent more using a parallel handle cart than they did a regular cart.

The key is the difference in the muscles that are activated while shopping, and their psychological associations.

A study, led by the Bays School of Business, City University of London, looked at how the use of different cart styles affects purchasing decisions. It found that shoppers spent an average of 25 percent more using the parallel handle cart (pictured) compared to a regular cart because it activates the “positive” biceps, rather than the “negative” triceps.

Conventional gigs (above) activate the triceps muscle, in the back of the arm, which is associated with rejecting things we don't like (pushing or pushing something away)

Conventional gigs (above) activate the triceps muscle, in the back of the arm, which is associated with rejecting things we don’t like (pushing or pushing something away)

Conventional gigs activate the triceps muscle, at the back of the arm, which is associated with rejecting things we don’t like (pushing or pushing something away, for example).

Conversely, activation of the biceps in the front of the arm, as parallel handles do, is related to the things we like because it is activated when the individual pulls or holds objects close to the body.

Professor Estes, professor of marketing at the Bays School of Business, said findings linking muscle use to spending could help shoppers control their festive budget.

“If shoppers want to reduce their shopping trips and buy their gifts in one go, they can flex their biceps to pull things into their cart,” he explained.

If they want to reduce spending, standard shopping carts can be a welcome and unexpected factor to prevent unnecessary purchases from the cart.

The study authors said that from

The study authors said it was “shocking” to find that a small change in the position of the knobs could have a significant impact on shopper spending. In the photo, the new wagon

Professor Estes said shoppers want to keep spending to a minimum, and standard shopping carts may work

Prof Estes said shoppers want to keep spending to a minimum, and standard shopping carts may act as “welcome and unexpected curbs to keep non-essential purchases out of the cart”.

The results can also be used by retailers to sell more by providing customers with shopping carts with parallel handles.

According to the researchers, major shopping cart manufacturers were surprised to learn how handle position could affect sales, and had not previously considered using parallel handles.

Professor Estes said: “It is shocking to find that even a small change in the position of the knobs can have a significant impact on shopper spending.”

“In fact, the knobs are literally flexing our shopping muscle…yet retailers seem to be losing a trick if they want to increase their sales even more.”

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