How Retail Stores Manipulate You

How Retail Stores Manipulate You

HELLO FRIENDS!! a bit of an experimental video here, but i hope you guys like it…

Have you ever wondered why you always get lost in IKEA? Or why you can’t leave Sephora without a hand full of lipstick swatches? Or why you just love hanging out at Target? I was curious… so I decided to do some research on how different retail stores manipulate you into spending more time at their stores, interacting with their products more, and therefore, spending more of you hard earned cash at their shops. We explored different tactics that Ikea, Target, Sephora, and Ulta use to lure customers in & keep them there until they make a purchase! This is the first of a 3-part series we’re gonna be working on throughout the year!

A big thank you to Jen Clinehens for helping us out with this video; make sure to check out her YouTube channel here:

Make sure to check out The Food Theorists’ video on Grocery store manipulation here!!

This video is NOT sponsored!!

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Via AudioNetwork

Rachel Faulkner
Safiya Nygaard

Safiya Nygaard
Tyler Williams
Dayana Espinoza
Jarvis Rooker

GFX by Dayana Espinoza

Other sources:
Remus, Emily. “Disruptive Shopping: Women, Space, and Capitalism.” The American Historian, The Organization of American Historians
Segran, Elizabeth. “Department Stores Were the Original Retail Startups. Now They’re Headed for the Grave.” Fast Company, Fast Company, 1 May 2020.
Glancey, Jonathan. “A History of the Department Store.” BBC News, BBC
Smithsonian Magazine, “Why the Department Store Brought Freedom for the Turn of the Century Woman.”, Smithsonian Institution, 13 Mar. 2013
Mitchelson, Alana. “Why Is IKEA like a Maze? We Ask Its Design Boss.” The New Daily, 28 Aug. 2018
Ringen, Jonathan. “IKEA’s Big Bet on Meatballs.” Fast Company, 10 Oct. 2017
Lubin, Gus. “Why Shopping at IKEA Is a Magical Experience like Nothing in the World.” Business Insider, 16 Jan. 2014
Waters, Carlos. “How Ikea Mastered the Gruen Effect.” Vox, 17 Oct. 2018
Collins, Lauren. “House Perfect.” The New Yorker, 26 Sept. 2011
Clifford, Catherine. “Meatballs and DIY Bookcases: The Psychology behind IKEA’s Iconic Success.” CNBC, 5 Oct. 2019
Goldstein, Jacob. “’As Long as There’s Human Life on Earth, a Strong IKEA Has Its Worth’.” NPR, 26 Sept. 2011
Jansson-Boyd, Cathrine. “How Ikea’s Shop Layout Influences What You Buy.” BBC Worklife, BBC, 31 Jan. 202
Rosmarin, Remi. “A Study Breaks down Who Has the Best Prices between Amazon, Target, and Walmart in 5 Different Categories – Here’s Where to Shop for What.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 31 July 2019
McMahan, Dana. “The ‘Target Effect:’ a Psychologist Explains Why You Can’t Just Buy One Thing.”, NBCUniversal News Group, 9 Nov. 2018
“Target Reveals Design Elements of Next Generation of Stores.” Target Corporate, 20 Mar. 2017
Bourg Carter, Sherrie. “Why Mess Causes Stress: 8 Reasons, 8 Remedies.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 14 Mar. 2012
Mead, Taylor. “Experts Confirm That It’s Nearly Impossible to Buy One Thing at Target – Here’s Why.” House Beautiful, House Beautiful, 20 Aug. 2018
McGrath, Lauren. “The Creepy Science behind Why You Love Target so Much.” Philadelphia Magazine, 23 June 2016,
Young, Sarah. “A Consumer Psychologist Explains Why Every Beauty Shop Looks the Same.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 17 Nov. 2016
Thomas, Ellen. “How Ulta Is Resetting the Mass Beauty Shopping Experience.” WWD, 23 Mar. 2018
Brown, Rachel. “Erwin Winkler Talks Ulta Beauty’s New Face.” WWD, 5 Aug. 2015
Gregory, Sean. “Want to Save Some Money? Shop without Touching.” Time, Time Inc., 3 Apr. 2009
Jaffe, Eric. “An Evolutionary Theory for Why You Love Glossy Things.” Fast Company, 21 Jan. 2014.

00:00 Intro
02:05 History Of Retail
4:55 Manipulated by Ikea
11:33 The Target Effect
16:58 Sephora & Ulta Get Their Revenge
22:30 Outro
23:32 Child Melts Down At Ikea

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42 Responses

  1. Safiya Nygaard says:

    HELLO FRIENDS!!! ok this is a little bit of an experimental format for us, but we hope you guys like it – leave us a like & a comment if you’d like to see more videos like this! we saw a video from the Food Theorists where they discussed how grocery stores pump the smell of rotisserie chicken throughout the store to get you hungrier and more likely to buy more things, and wondered what other stores do this type of thing… have you ever caught one of these (or other) retail stores trying to ~manipulate~ you into buying more stuff? let us know in the comments below what other manipulation you’ve witnessed! xoxo, saf

    • Please stop screaming says:

      Another one is restaurants! Certain colors have been studied for making people hungry. And all the food styling & menu design.

    • cass stephens says:

      Really like the format, and the video- essay kind of content👍💡☀️

    • Allie Spencer says:

      Please refer to my comment, as someone that has over 17 years of experience in these stores, I’m so glad you put this information out there!

    • SorrensSorrow says:

      @Dave Daniel yeah I read it and the fact that you only watched part of the video before launching your IKEA campaign is clearly disrespectful of Safiya. It really bothers you, that you have been manipulated, doesn’t it? It’s ok it happens to the best of us. 🙋‍♀️

    • Shannon Ryder says:

      OH Safiya, What was that starbucks drink?

  2. ilene R says:

    I feel like Marshall’s and home goods should have been added to this study. They have that treasure hunt design that works like a charm.

    • Practically A Person says:

      I work at a Tj Maxx and trust me, the company wants things moved so often it’s a challenge for employees to find things sometimes. Plus some sections are crammed full because you are sent too much stuff. I cannot shop at the store and hour away because I hate how narrow the aisles are.

    • Sabrina Archibold says:

      It’s such a mess in there. How do you even shop in those stores 🙀

    • ruby m says:

      @Crewmate CantSleep exactly! growing up my mom would always tell me to just ask someone for help & I’m like what? Why would I do that? That just sucks the fun out of it 💀💀

    • Tina 🤍 says:

      @Ashland Justus By technicality, grocery stores are a scam then since most of their weekly sales are 50¢-$1.00 savings 😅 It’s definitely a store by store basis, I’m not discrediting your experiences at all! There was a marshalls next door to my homegoods and everyone was miserable there and it was gross and dirty. My store was a circle of excellence (or presidents team or whatever they call it at tjx) every year before and while i worked there, so ours was certainly different from others. But personally I was always stoked doing the markdowns and watching things that’d been sitting there for a while drop $10-20 bucks. That’s big savings to me haha When I did markdowns that was my shopping day! 😊

    • Steve Harrington “aka your mother” says:

      TJ Max’s store set up is so annoying BUT every time I go there I find at least one good pair of jeans or a sweatshirt. Like it’s very overwhelming but I love to search for something I’m not really aware I’m looking for.

  3. Lauren Shortle says:

    IKEA was even more of a maze nightmare in covid times when they had first re-opened (here in the uk anyway). After you’d been to the loo, you had to walk through the entire shop one way system again before you could leave!

  4. Raula says:

    Another interesting fact: I’ve learned in Uni about a psychological effect that when you create or build something yourself you will enjoy and appreciate it more, because you’ve put work into it. So Ikea letting you build your furniture yourself is even more genius because it not only saves them a lot of money but makes you like the furniture even more!

  5. Dapjne Kerem says:

    As a person with ADHD, the maze and the crowded isles give me so much stress and anxiety. I hate randomly arranged shelves too, I just want to go through it all one by one in order

    • Yolanda Raquel Lopez says:

      Same, I really have to mentality prepare myself for any shopping I do. Even if it goes well, I am so mentally drained afterwards

    • Rachelle Lamberti says:

      My husband with adhd go so, so stressed during his first and only time at ikea too. We will probably never go back.

    • angela maria garcia silva says:

      I am like this. For me I can’t finish my supermarket day if I didn’t go to every island. That’s why I now I do a list so I don’t get so entertain but at the same time I get satisfiedby finishing the list

  6. Chloe Louise says:

    The overstimulation in stores gives me panic attacks! Shopping is such a nightmare for me, I had no idea the overstimulation was on purpose 🙃

  7. Quinn Strawn says:

    Another marketing scam can be in outlet stores because a ton of items are made for the outlets. Btw, I love your vids Saf! This made me day, especially after someone ate my leftovers.

    • hee hee says:

      @Erica Detlefs YOOOOO i commented before i read your comment and im so glad someone else who used to work at banana republic noticed this

    • hee hee says:

      i used to work at a banana republic outlet store. Everything was always on sale lmao. They would have signs saying the item is on sale for one week to get people to buy the item. Little did they know that that item has been on “sale” since the moment i started working in that store.

    • Jasmine Lambert says:

      @Miss B absolutely. I work at target and our Wonderland brand (the one that has all of the seasonal Christmas stuff) is absolutely crap and is usually much poorer quality than similar items without the holiday branding

    • Jenn W says:

      @Beware the Lily of the Valley Ah, fair enough. It does seem that outlets are getting a new life in a way. I hope it works great!!

    • Beware the Lily of the Valley says:

      @Jenn W Most of the stuff is in new conditon, I believe. The outlet claims they buy the overflow from other stores, or buys up the stock when stores go bankrupt, those types of things. I’ve not explored every nook and cranny, but the blender was the first time I’ve seen a refurbished item there. It wasn’t in the original box, the label had sort of been reprinted in black and white (misleading me into thinking I was getting a black and chrome blender. It’s actually grey and chrome 😅 Oh well…). I don’t think returned items are their bread and butter.

  8. Jennifer says:

    There’s actually a fairly popular TV show in Australia called the Gruen Transfer, which talks about the tricks advertisers use to manipulate consumers. We don’t have the same attachment to Target here but there’s definitely a Kmart effect – when we came out of lockdown after COVID, Kmart was the first place everyone rushed to!

    • Daniel Cox says:

      Australian target actually has 0 relation to the US stores. They copied the US ones but it’s a different company with no affiliation at all.

    • kitchensinkchronicles says:

      see that’s funny because the kmarts here in the US are all trashy and disorganized. maybe they should have the people in charge the Australian stores be in charge of stores over here! in the US kmarts have a reputation for being dirty and cheap. to the point where i’ve been in ones that don’t even have finished flooring and have had leaks in the roofs. something is going on over here and they could probably benefit from working with the Australian kmart people.

    • Courtney Dobbs says:

      All I could think while she was talking about target over there is how much it reminded me of Kmart here and why people flocked to it the last few years!

  9. Dennis Verbist says:

    I worked at IKEA for years, especially in “home decor” where you find the hand, “Handskalad”, customers always put up the middle finger. I had to put it down 10 times a day 🙃
    It’s also really nice to know the shop by heart, I could get from one side to the other in a matter of minutes. Most IKEA’s have a system for employees to find specific products really fast wherever they are, just by looking at the ceiling…. 🙂

    • QueenOfFabulous says:

      My local one used zip ties to hold the middle finger down

    • Lizard says:

      I was at Ikea yesterday and couldn’t find an item and they, the employee, told me about the number system on the ceiling. It is really smart.

  10. UltraMarine says:

    Yes, I love starting my sunday morning with some breakfast and a Safiya video (◕ᴗ◕✿) that’s some S tier stuff 👌👌👌

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