Picture this — a customer is walking through or outside a store and suddenly, a product display catches their eye. They see something so captivating that they must have it. Naturally, they toss it into their shopping cart or enter the store specifically for that item. This describes a simple yet common form of impulse buying everyone’s done at one time or another.
Impulse buying is when someone immediately selects or purchases an item, almost spontaneously, based on emotion or experience. As the name suggests, it’s all done unplanned. Why does it happen? Where does it come from?
Here are some quick tips to increase that score and encourage impulse buying.
1. Mind the Presentation and Location
Impulse buying hinges on the power of temptation. Imagine being on a diet. People might think of delicious foods and breaking their plans, but without any in front of them, it’s easier to focus. But as soon as there are sweets, snacks and other desirable foods nearby, the temptation to grab one begins to grow. That’s precisely how impulse buying works, but it’s not necessarily because of item visibility.
There’s a reason why grocery stores, toy stores, department stores and every type of retail store has an item section right by the register and checkout. These are often intended to be impulse purchases. It works exceptionally well with food and snacks, playing on the customer’s and their children’s hunger or desire for sweets. But it also highlights the importance of two distinct impulse traits — presentation and location.
The items are front and center, in full visibility and remain in view while the customer waits in line. The longer the customer stays, the greater the temptation. Not to mention, the location itself is central — right before the customer leaves. If they’re feeling hungry or thirsty, they can simply grab what they want and add it to their existing shopping list.
2. Invoke Strong Emotions
Speaking of being hungry or thirsty, these are examples of strong positive or negative emotions that can influence impulse buying. Sometimes, customers even purchase to remove or eliminate feelings of stress, fatigue, sadness and beyond. They might impulse buy to relieve pressure.
During the pandemic, 72% of shoppers said impulse buying positively affected their mood, with two out of three respondents outright saying their purchases turned a bad day around. Suppose one can influence the customer’s emotional state, dredging up intense positive or negative feelings. In that case, there’s an increased chance of impulse buys.
An excellent example of positive sentiment — or encouraging action through positive emotions — relates to modern sustainability. People want to live healthier and be better for the environment, so present them with methods and ideas for doing so.
3. Upend Self-Control
At the heart of impulse buying — or its antecedent — is self-control. When someone makes an impulse buy, their self-control has been eroded in some way. Someone might give up their self-control to eat healthily when hungry. When sad, they might grab a magazine or small item to take their mind off their feelings or thoughts.
Surveys indicate 90% of consumers engage in impulse buying in retail environments. The design of item displays, how goods are presented and everything related — including deals, discounts or promotions — all have an impulse score. The greater the imaginary score, the more likely someone will impulse buy the item or even pay for the service.
Upending self-control is a crucial step in encouraging impulse buys. Think of it as dangling an apple, carrot or treat in front of an animal. When the presentation or placement of a product overwhelms the buyer’s self-control, impulse buying happens.
There are three major components often part of a buyer’s self-control:
- Higher shopping standards and goals: Shoppers enter for something specific with a goal in mind versus those who enter just to browse.
- Self-monitoring behavior and spending habits: Shoppers who monitor their total spending, have a tight budget or can track their selections and purchases.
- Self-regulatory power or state of mind: Emotions, state of mind and feelings — like fatigue or hunger — that influence self-control.
4. Rely on Pure Nostalgia
Past experiences can also influence a person’s self-control, especially if they feel strongly about an item, its presentation or its design. Things that take people back to their childhood are compelling. This is why many marketing techniques rely on visual representations of the past, like commercials that call upon years or decades ago.
Nostalgia can be engaged in many ways — through smells, sounds like music, visual and audible tones, taste and so much more. Adding these elements to an item display — especially when it services the overall theme — can boost the impulse score and make people more likely to purchase or add items to their cart. It also works well with specific demographics. For example, nostalgia is an extremely powerful attractant for Millennial and Gen Z shoppers.
5. Offer Unique Discounts
Who can pass up a great deal or a rare opportunity? Retail and eCommerce giants always offer sales, promotions and big events because it hones in on the need to impulse shop. Offering a deal and playing on a sense of urgency because that deal might end soon erodes self control. On average, people will wait up to two months to get the best deal on items. Present them with savings right away and no waiting is necessary.
The same is true with displays, marketing content, promotional materials and everywhere else that might present a unique opportunity, like trade shows and local events. But just like deals are enticing, so is an item’s price. That’s why companies spend millions on market research to choose the perfect retail price for new products. Too high and it prices people out of the market, but too low and it leaves money on the table.
Make People Feel to Drive Up the Impulse Score
While it may be imaginary, the impulse score is vital when building a product presentation, placing items within a retail store or encouraging customers to spend spontaneously. It all boils down to the power of temptation and making people feel strongly — negatively or positively — to spark action. Presentation is the catalyst.
Making consumers feel the need to have something sooner rather than later ups their impulse score, making them more likely to spend. The tips above can help increase that score. By doing all this, customers could be more likely to buy, spurred to action by the products and displays.