7 Things We Regularly Do in Supermarkets - But Are Not Aware Of (as being told by the Shopping Carts)

7 Things We Regularly Do in Supermarkets (as told by the Shopping Carts)
September 5, 2018 Omnibus

Picture yourself in the supermarket store. You are approaching a 12-pack of milk or a 24-bottles crate of beer or diapers or an XXL pack of toilet paper rolls or something like this

6-pack of water x 1,5 litres => approximately 9 kilograms

Pretty heavy or sizable stuff, right? And whatever the reason for it, you decide to buy it.

How do you carry it around the store?

You might have your own methods, we are human beings after all, but using something like this bellow would probably be a very likely answer.

And here comes the observation number 1:

In order to move the heavy multipacks around the store shoppers use – shopping carts.

Obvious. No brainer.

Now, here starts part number 2: Our respected partner’s prime retail package is exactly a pretty heavy multipack (something like shown on the photo above). And the partner was naturally interested to get insights about point-of-sale shopper behavior.

The connection between 1 and 2: Since all the multipacks are carried around with shopping carts, we could open a wide window of insights – if only we could follow the shopping carts. And out of the bag (remember Sport Billy, anyone?) I took a solution developed by startup partners Agitron – using RFID technology and cloud-based analytics package to follow the shopping tracks around the store!

Just great – something probing, rarely done before, putting in use new technology to find out more about choice and decision-making of us, human beings – something Omnibus was generated for in the first place!

So, we got a green light from the partner and the chosen supermarket and got into the shopping path research that will enable us to discern different shopping patterns, to analyze shopping journeys, and study the directions, movements, and pauses during the shopping trips. All of these will lead us and our partner to understand the customers better and leverage actionable insights regarding point-of-sale to improve its already thriving retail performance.

More about the project itself you can find out by clicking the links below the article.


While setting up the research, I have deep-dived into stacks of the previous studies based on in-store shopper tracking. Here’s the compilation of lesser-known facts about our behavior in the supermarket environment. The summer is still around, so sip yourself a glass of bubbling water and listen to a 7-point story as told by shopping carts!

1. First count the calories, of course!

During another study, our partner Agitron measured that the average shopping trip lasts 38 minutes during which the shopping cart travels 386 meters. If we take into consideration occasional parking of the shopping cart (eg. fruit and vegetable browsing), the shoppers walk around 500 meters in one average supermarket shopping trip. Means you burn approximately 24 calories during such a trip. Unfortunately, doesn’t seem enough to just pack your highness in the couch and turn the reward = telly on!

2. Clockwise or Counter-Clockwise?

Clockwise store layout is counter-intuitive. People actually move more naturally in counter-clockwise patterns. Counter-clockwise shoppers thus spend, on average, $2 more per trip. The right half of the store also has more traffic flow. (Sorensen, 2003) Doesn’t sound much? Just do a little calculation: 500 visitors / day x 2 $ => 1.000 $ / day => 30.000 $ / month => 360.000 $ / year. Per store. Not that bad, just ask a good old Scrooge McDuck how money is earned, right?

3. Question: Who’s the bastard that stole my cart full of stuff in the middle of the store?

The Answer: Probably, no one, better try to remember where you put it last!

But this doesn’t mean that we – the tribe of shoppers – don’t jealously attend our carts while strolling around the shop. Yes, for that half an hour we just substitute cars with carts! During shopping trips, we leave our beloved cars, pardon carts unattended only during 10% of our shopping time.

4. Another side of unattended

Important stuff for the retailers: while customers are not driving and caressing their carts, they are doing something else. What? Their hands finally free, they actually grab up the products from the shelves and the displays – yes, they shop! When customers feel comfortable they also spend more!

In narrow, stuffy traditional formats with gondolas rising up almost to the ceiling more than half of the shoppers (54%) don’t leave their shopping cart unattended.

In open, free-formats the percentage of unattended time rises to 75%

The takeaway: leaving the shopping carts in the store unattended generally means that people feel comfortable in the store!

5. Congested highways

What do we do when we hear about the congested highways or traffic-clogged city arteries? We avoid them. The same in the stores. With carts we tend to move towards open spaces. But – though open spaces attract crowds, it is the crowds that also decrease spending. A measure and a balance necessary.

6. Decompress first!

Sorry, we are not talking unzipping data here. Also, you should try another article if your airplane has suddenly just lost the altitude … According to @Paco Underhill decompression zone refers to the particular area of the store that just follows the entrance. The one with the highest traffic (we have to enter, right?) but also limited attention because the customers need to “decompress”, to adjust to the new environment.

If you’re a retailer don’t try to take benefit of the traffic frequency here. Don’t clutter the entrance with stuff.

The bonus: tiny, totally free tip for the retailers. The produce, fruit, and vegetables, often located at the entry is visible to all of your store visitors, right? Now .. Having the produce of inferior visual quality, salad withering, even visibly rotten here transfers to the image of the whole store, ergo … But how many times we still do see that?

7. Enters fatigue

During the shopping trip – starting at the entrance, ending at the counters – the shoppers become increasingly faster (=road runners). That’s due to the fatigue, time pressure and other factors. According to Sorensen’s research buying time for a particular category (salad dressings) gets down from 28.2 seconds to 8.5 seconds. Valid also for other categories. If it takes 80 seconds from stopping to actually putting the product in the cart at the beginning of the trip, it’ll take only 20 seconds for the same category in the final quadrant.

Means that if you’re a retailer you should help your customers a bit. Small chocolates in the end zone are fine (except for the calories gained). Regular household products also. Organic alternatives welcome, of course (also calories friendly!). But don’t promote unknown and complex products in the final quadrant.


Now, if you’d like some more facts about our shopping behavior, I would suggest one or both of the two options:

a) follow our on-going blog about Shopping path tracking project on Omnibus’s website – the research is really unique and we regularly add new insights!

b) following doesn’t feel enough? If that’s so – why wouldn’t we go through the new challenge together? We’ll discover amazing stuff, that we can promise. Plus: we enjoy such research so much that we’ll provide fun facts absolutely for free!

But, anyway, do share your shopping cart anecdotes – and do share the article to the ones that shop – consciously or unconsciously!


—> The Blog where you can follow the unique project on daily basis!

1 Comment

  1. I visit everyday a few web sites and information sites
    to read posts, except this weblog presents quality based content.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.