The buying of goods without planning to do so in advance, as a result of a sudden whim or impulse.
When you are at the check-out of a departmental store, you will notice little knick-knacks, treats and other trifles displayed at the billing counter. These could be fun-flavoured chewing gum, some new candy that’s in the market, snazzy little hair accessories, or other doodah that catch the eye and are usually, although not always, inexpensive. And more often than not, you have picked it up to at least examine it, even if you didn’t eventually and summarily toss it into your shopping basket (although you probably do that often, too)! And that, folks, is impulse shopping. The displaying of those faddles is a little marketing ploy based on the psychology of the shopper’s impulsive nature.
This example demonstrates one of many instances of impulsive shopping. It happens in various different ways, and in many types of situations. For instance, when you shop online and the website suggests complementary products to buy before you check out. Or when something pretty and unimportant is on sale. Or when you notice something new and attractive and want to try it out. These are just common instances that store owners can cash in on.
Impulse-buys aren’t always a bad thing because that delicious box of Danish butter cookies can always be served to guests who may visit. The more frugal and conservative society would deem it a sinful waste of money that could have been used on more useful items. But imagine a world where everything was done pragmatically and nothing done indulgently! In any case, in today’s world impulse-buying is so common that most of the time people don’t realise they are doing it!
Impulsive buying works on a number of levels
- Impulse-buying gratifies an immediate want.
- Impulse-shopping happens a whopping 32% of the time! (Disclaimer: spending may vary across categories.)
- Impulse-shopping is restorative therapy to the shopper.
- As much as it is soul-soothing for the buyer it’s a joy-harbinger for the enterprise!
- Happy patrons = more business = more revenue = fortified brand name
- It could create offers tailored to the moment, to prompt the almost-immediate purchasing behaviour.
- Almost everyone carries a smart phone all the time, and quick mobile app accessibility allows a shopper to impulse-buy without much trouble.
- Plenty of online retailers capitalise on mobile apps during holidays or festive seasons to cash in immediately on impulse shopping.
How to create an atmosphere that induces impulse-shopping?
- Shoppers are influenced by sensory impression – sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, and how something makes them feel. People will pick something up if one of these senses are triggered. In a physical store, all of these can be targeted. In a virtual store – as is the case with e-commerce and m-commerce – visual and auditory senses and the feel-good-factor can be focussed on.
- Product placement has an important role in this. It is all about the timing of the presentation.
- Presenting complementary products to them while they search for specific-intent products actually has a good chance of being seen and bought, either because it complements the purchase or on impulse.
- When the process is simplified and facile, the shopper is more relaxed, less irritable and hardly ever irate. More so with e-commerce and m-commerce, this exponentially draws them into the experience, and promotes a happy shopping episode fraught with impulsive buys.
- People impulse-buy with their emotions, not the strategy-creating part of their brain. Cater to those emotions.
- Online marketing can be used to target customers by extrapolating their needs based on their past buying behaviour.
- Coupons and discounts (especially with deadlines) assist in making customers buy a product they otherwise didn’t intend to.
- People are more likely to buy from you instantly or impulsively when they don’t have to put in any effort to avail your offer. This is because time, proximity and impulse purchases have a close relationship with each other and the customer.
For instance, if you send customers a notification on their mobile app saying ‘flash sale, 15% off all Noritake crockery; valid only today,’ the chances of people availing the offer are higher, as opposed to an offer that lasts longer. If the offer lasts longer, people have enough time to shake the impulse and come to their senses, asking, “Do I really need a Noritake gravy boat that costs $111 after the discount and comes with free shipping, or shall I save that money for the month’s utilities bill?”
Pay attention to the demographics
- The categories for shopping dictate the frequency of browsing, the number of purchases, the number of impulse-buys, and the money that will be spent on those products. You could expect more impulse buys in fashion and accessories as opposed to in electronics. However, you could expect higher cash amounts spent in electronics than in fashion and accessories.
- Younger customers make higher impulsive buys as they have more discretionary money to spend.
- Planned shopping trips render 13% less impulsive buys. Unplanned one increase the chance by 20%.
- Up to 20% of the average household’s grocery bills are made on impulse alone. (I’ll buy rice, veggies, and some cheese. But the kids have extra sports practice this month and these energy drinks would be utile.. Maybe I should keep some ready-made gravies on hand in case I’m busy or tired this week and can’t cook.. Oh, the gardener could make use of some new shears.. they’re anyway on sale, it’s a steal for that price.. Why, my husband may need this handy toiletries travel kit for his business trip next week!)
- Plenty of impulse buying happens out of anger, guilt, boredom, or giddy joyfulness.
- While statistically speaking women may impulse-shop a little more than men, men tend to spend more per impulse-buy than women.
- Food, fashion, toiletries, magazines etc. are most commonly bought on impulse (and in that order of precedence).
- There’s a 44% higher chance of impulse-buys being made by people who use their own mode of conveyance to stores, especially cars, as transportation of goods back home is easier.
- Online impulse-buying is about 50% more across all demographics.
As a store owner you want people to buy as much as you can possibly sell. And it is good to understand this particular shopping habit – impulsive buying – of your demographics, as much as it is important to understand your customers’ other browsing and buying behaviours today. However, you don’t want to be the kind of store that comes across to shoppers as an enterprise that preys on a patron’s bad buying habits, almost crippling their finances. So strike a balance in your marketing and merchandising strategies to make the shopping experience enjoyable for the customer, giving them value for their money and eliminating the guilt-ridden feeling that comes from a bad splurge! Because, impulsive buys may get you one big sale, but if customers feel bad later, chances are they won’t return! Use impulse-buying triggers to add value to the customer’s shopping while collaterally gaining on better sales and a reinforced brand name!