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The Science Behind The 'Target Effect'

SANTA CLARA (CBS13) – You know when you go into the store, thinking you're going buy that one thing, and you look over and see you that other thing and you're like "oh" – and you also end up buying that other thing you didn't even know about until then?

Well, that "thing" has name: The Target Effect.

Whitney Horn went in thinking she was just going to buy food for her son.

"I came in to get him stuff for lunch for the week … And then, two bags later!" Horn said.

Kirthi Kalyanam is a retail expert from Santa Clara University says the "Target effect" is opposite of the "Amazon effect," where people shop online for their utilitarian needs.

But Kalyanam says Target uses the tried-and-true technique of cross-merchandising: setting up displays to help you discover what he calls exciting new products.

"Academically, we call this hedonic shopping. Meaning, it's not utility oriented, it's not like I want to solve something. It's something I want to kind of please my senses. Something I do to open my mind," Kalyanam said.

Kalyanam says Target has some of the best designers in the industry, and the company was smart to freshen up and renovate their stores.

Which means this whole "Target effect" is no accident.

"I think it's a very strong, deeper positioning they're carving out against Amazon. And if they have to survive as a retail chain, against Amazon, they have to go this route. They have very few options," Kalyanam said.

About the "Target effect", the company released a statement to us saying in part:

"Our in-store shopping experience facilitates a sense of inspiration and discovery through visual merchandising and curated product collections, while still making it easy for guests who want to stop in for a quick trip."

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