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What Are Impulse Purchases?

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Last editedJun 20222 min read

Impulse buying makes up somewhere between 40 and 80% sales, making it a hugely significant sales strategy to tap into. Impulse buys differ from regular purchases as they involve no forethought or planning, but are the result of a desire or whim to buy a product in the moment.

There are a number of factors involved in triggering impulse purchasing, which both brick-and-mortar and ecommerce businesses can utilise to drive impulse sales. However, naturally these should not encourage irresponsible spending. Instead the goal is to encourage customers that can afford it to make unplanned purchases that will nonetheless be used and enjoyed.

What is impulsive purchasing?

An impulse purchase is made spontaneously and out of a desire for instant gratification. It most commonly occurs in brick-and-mortar retail, where a product catches a customer’s eye and they decide on the spur of the moment to buy it. However, the same feeling can be brought about via ecommerce, especially when customers are browsing with no particular goal in mind.

What causes impulsive buying?

Impulsive shopping can be triggered by a number of factors, some which can only be determined by the customers themselves, such as emotional state, and others which can be elicited by the store. The latter includes the sales environment, which may facilitate spontaneous buying, sales and promotions, plus advice and guidance from retail staff. Customers which frequent certain stores and have trust in a brand are also more likely to make impulse purchases in that same store.

Ways to drive impulse buys

The buying experience, whether impulsive or not, is highly dependent on interactions between customers and the point of sale environment. There are therefore a number of ways that physical retail stores and ecommerce stores can encourage impulse buys and further drive sales. Some of these ways are outlined below:

Offer deals and promotions

Impulse buying isn’t always linked to poor financial management, sometimes it’s done with the goal of saving money over the long-term. For example, if a customer sees a good deal on products they typically buy anyway, they may opt to impulsively purchase more than planned.

Seeing promotions and offers can also make customers more likely to make unplanned purchases, as they see that it is a financially sound purchase.

Consider offering promotions, deals and sales in your store to help encourage impulse purchases.

Enhance store’s physical stimuli

As we already mentioned, the shopping environment is key to driving impulsive buys. Creating an easy to navigate and pleasant store environment will encourage customers to spend more time perusing, increasing the likelihood that they’ll indulge in some unplanned shopping. Having some pleasant background music, and having friendly sales staff on hand to advise and assist can also have a positive impact.

Product placement

Strategic product placement can also lead to increased impulse purchases in your store. Using window displays to attract customers and create an exciting environment can encourage sales, while putting high value products in easy to reach places can increase the value of a customer’s impulsive spend.

Impulsive buying in ecommerce

While the above tactics can still be employed to encourage impulse purchases in ecommerce, further tips exclusive to online retail are detailed below:

Offer free shipping

Something that can zap the fun out of spontaneous buying is sky-high shipping costs. To remedy this, consider offering free shopping on purchases over a certain amount, and look into ways you can keep shipping costs to a minimum.

Mobile optimisation

A slow and tedious shopping experience will drastically lower impulse buy rates. To that end, make sure your ecommerce site is optimised for mobile and tablet usage. With a streamlined store environment, more impulse purchases can occur.

Quality web design

Similarly, your website should be easy to navigate and pleasant to use.  The less frustration and the more pleasure a shopper experiences while operating the site, the more likely it is that they will stick around to make unplanned purchases.

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