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How To Spend Less: The Ultimate Course for Becoming A Shopping Sniper

Welcome to your training. I hope you enjoyed the video. But now it’s time to begin.

This is a 2,000 word training manual that will walk you through becoming a Shopping Sniper, and in turn, train you to spend less, save more money and allow you to focus on what’s really important.

Why Are Americans Addicted to Shopping?

You’d think because of the economic crash in 2008 that Americans would be a lot more conscience of their spending. You’d also think Americans would have toned down their shopping just a little bit, but instead, shopping totals have increased.

In April of 2013, retail shopping sales increased by 0.1%. Not a huge increase, but an increase nonetheless.

We are a culture of consumerism. It’s been engrained in our DNA to want stuff, to keep up with the Joneses, to “shop till you drop.” It’s no wonder why American’s have trouble saving their money — they’re spending it while they shop.

Shopping is so popular that we have TV shows based around it, including:

  • My Shopping Addiction
  • Supermarket Sweep
  • HSN & QVC
  • Million Dollar Shoppers
  • Extreme Couponing
  • The Entire Style Network
  • Guy’s Grocery Games

We are being brainwashed into shopping. Shopping has become a skill and a sport in our country. In fact, the only way to avoid being sold to is to go to sleep. That is until dream TV is invented.

Exposing 5 Retail Store Marketing Secrets

I’ve been working in retail stores since I was 13 years old. I’ve also spent time as the head of marketing for a chain of retail stores. My job was to make people buy more stuff, and I learned these secrets from the best and the biggest stores in the country.

As a former marketing director, I know what goes into making people buy more and buy often. My job was to create colorful circulars (newspaper ads), packed to the brim with coupons. I filmed funny TV commercials, created ads for magazines and spots for radio. I did whatever it took to get my brand in front of your face, over and over again.

I’ve learned a lot during my time, and I think it’s time I expose myself…I mean my secrets to retail marketing. Having this knowledge will give you power and make you a better Shopping Sniper

Secret #1: No Clocks, No Windows

The simple reason for the this is because the stores don’t want you to pay attention to the time. They also don’t want you to realize how nice it is outside. By denying you insights to the outside world, they hope to keep you in the store and shopping longer.

They also play very easy-to-listen music throughout the store. This music is meant to put you in a good mood to increase your shopping time. Oh, and they always crank the AC in the summer. Feels so good to shop in the mall during the summer, doesn’t it?

Secret #2: Loss Leaders

Walmart is well known for this marketing tactic, especially during the holiday season. Loss Leaders are products that are very popular and desirable, so the stores will sell these items at the lowest possible price without losing any money — however, Walmart is known for actually losing money on these items.

The trick is to get you into the store by pricing these desirable items so low that you can’t pass up that kind of deal. The hope is that once you’re in the store, you’ll buy something else just because you might think, “well, while I’m here…”

Remember CDs or Compact Discs? Best Buy and Circuit City (R.I.P.) would actually lose money selling CDs. They continued to sell them and advertise them because it brought people in the door for the hot new album. Then, hopefully, you’d buy a new CD player or Disc Man — ah, the good ol’ days of skipping sounds.

Computers are another great example of Loss Leaders. Retailers will mark down computers really low, or even at their cost, to bring you into the store. The goal then becomes to “upsell” you cables, discs, and other peripherals you might need for your new computer. Those items are marked up significantly to make up for the “loss” on their leading items.

Secret #3: The UpSell

Upselling is what sales people are trained to do in certain retail stores. In fact, the company I worked for offered “spiffs” to our retail employees. Spiffs was just another term for commissions for selling particular items that didn’t move off the shelves.

Upselling is the act of getting your customer to buy additional items on top of what they already bought. Hence, my computer example in the previous secret.

Secret #4: The Long Walk

I don’t know if there’s a proper term for this retail marketing technique, but the idea here is to take the most popular items in the store and place them at the furthest point away from the entrance. For instance, in a grocery store, milk and bread are usually located at the very back.

Also, in major department stores, you’ll often notice that the seasonal section is also located in the far back corner of the store. The idea is to simply get more people to walk through the store and see all the other items for sale. This is also why stores have end caps.

Every isle of a store has end caps which are there to entice you to buy items that are “on sale” as you walk by.

Secret #5: Impulse Spending

Without fail, you’ll notice that in every checkout line at a major department store there are magazine, candy, and last-minute accessories. This is placed there to take advantage of your impulse buying habits. In fact, they will sometimes place candy very low to the ground so that your kids will beg you to buy them a Hersey’s. This is some sneaky shit, right?

It’s important to be aware of these retail marketing tricks so you can avoid them when you start shopping.

What Is a Shopping Sniper?

I’ve come up with the term “shopping sniper” after realizing this is the way I currently shop. I used to spend hours and hours just store hopping and buying whatever tickled my fancy, but those days are far behind me. Instead, I got so obsessed with time and productivity, that I honestly dread going shopping — especially grocery shopping. This is how I spend less.

Here are my 10 tips for becoming a Shopping Sniper:

  1. Ask yourself, “do I really need this right now?” Just this simple act will allow you to be more mindful of your spending. I ask this every time I pick up an item. 9 times out of 10, I put it back down.
  2. Over research.  This is a little shopping hack that I came up with. The idea is to naturally delay your spending in the hopes that it will give you enough time to realize you don’t really need to buy it.
  3. Make a list.  Before you even step out of your home, make a detailed list of the things you NEED to buy, and never deviate from the list. The list is sacred. Also, have an additional list which you call a 30-day list. If you see an item you want, instead of buying it, put it on your 30-day list. In 30 days, check the list and buy the item if you still want it afterwards. Because time will have passed, chances are you won’t think you NEED that item anymore. Money saved!
  4. Avoid sales people.  Trust me on this, as a sales person, my job is to make you spend more money. This is why a list and research are so important: by knowing EXACTLY what you need, you won’t need any help when shopping.
  5. Know how retail marketing works.  Earlier in the article I exposed some key retail marketing secrets. Just being conscience of these secrets will give you the power not to be seduced by them.
  6. Find the shortest check out line.  Time is the worst thing you can have at the store — it’s just more time to walk around and shop. When you’ve picked up all the things on your list, get out of the store as fast as you can by finding the shortest line. And remember, beware of those last-minute impulse buys when you’re standing in line. No, you do not need entire tape roll of gum.
  7. Beware of coupons. As a retail marketer, I can tell you that coupons are printed and mailed to get you into the store for that “special deal.” I can also tell you that, for the most part, you’re not getting a special deal.
  8. Don’t food shop hungry.  This goes for grocery store shopping. If you’re hungry, you’ll end up shopping with your stomach, which often times makes you buy more food than you need.
  9. Make it a game.  Time yourself to see how fast you can get in and out. Try to out perform yourself each time. You can even force it on yourself by shopping just before you HAVE to be somewhere, like a job interview.
  10. Be mindful of online shopping. Chances are you’re on a computer or smartphone right now — I’d say the chances are pretty damn high. It’s easy, at the touch of a button, to purchase something right now. You need to fight these urges. Try StayFocusd: it limits the amount of time you can spend online. Also, don’t store your credit card information on shopping sites and use the Amazon Wish List as your 30-day list.

Understand what's a stake, know your enemy, and become a shopping sniper

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We actually produced a podcast episode about becoming a Shopping Sniper, and you can listen to it right here:

Tools To Make You a World-Class Shopping Marksman

I hope at this point you’re ready to start your training as a Shopping Sniper. Before you get started with your first attempt, there are some tools that you’ll need to effectively get the job done. These are the tools I use to execute my shopping missions.

For creating my list, I use my iPhone’s Reminders App that comes pre-installed with the phone. I have a shopping list and a 30-day list right in one app on my phone. As I put items in my cart, I check them off the list and move on.

Of course, if you like the feeling of a pen and paper, you can use that instead.

When I go grocery shopping, I bring my non-branding shopping bags (or totes) with me. I specially mention non-branded because this is another way stores can market to you. If you have a blue and yellow re-usable bag with the word “Ikea” plastered on it, you’ll have frustratingly hard-to-build Swedish furniture on your brain. Also, I only bring 2 bags with me to limit the amount of items I can buy.

Additional Resources

Why Americans are Addicted to Shopping (via The Huffington Post): If you want more information into the reasons why we so desperately need our shopping fix, you can start your descent into the Side-Boob Gazzette wormhole.

Americans Can’t Stop Shopping (via Business Week): If you didn’t believe me earlier when I said that retail shopping has gone up in recent months, here’s where I learned that.

10 Retail Marketing Tricks That Will Make You Spend More (via MarketWatch): All of the secrets I shared before I learned on my own through years of being in the retail industry. However, there are some smaller ones in this article that I think are also worth being aware of.

Are You Ready For Your Next Shopping Mission?

You’re mission, if you choose to accept it, is to first make a detailed list of the item(s) you want. Then, enter the store and quickly walk to where your item is located, avoiding any sales people.

Know thy enemy. There are no clocks or windows to help you. Avoid being distracted by the end caps of popular items “marked down” to entice you to buy as you make your way to your item.

Once you’ve retrieved your desired product, quickly walk to the shortest checkout line, avoiding the urge to buy that crispety, crunchety, peanut-buttery Butterfinger. Pay for your item and exit the store, NOW!

I think you’re ready, young Padawan.

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