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Everyone behaves impulsively now and then, for retailers there is an opportunity to maximize on those moments. One-third of consumers make an impulse purchase every week according to a study by Marketing Support, Inc. and Leo J. Shapiro and Associates, which makes a sizeable proportion of all consumer spending. There’s a reason sweets and goodies are placed by the tills in shops, succumbing to temptation is a part of human nature, just take a look at Adam and Eve.  

There’s long been an arduous battle between retailers wanting consumers to spend more at the checkouts, and shoppers trying to resist the urges of temptation. Retailers today are faced with a more difficult challenge of encouraging buying behaviors throughout the entire customer journey on multiple channels. Whether it’s in-store, online, or via mobile there are multiple strategies for retailers to encourage shoppers to buy more. 

What motivates an impulsive buy?

There are two types of reactive buying; ‘impulsive’ which is where a purchase is made spontaneously without thought to the costs or consequences of the purchase. Impulsive buyers are associated with being self-conscious, shopping to improve their mood, or shopping for fun. They are usually motivated by the need for self-gratification and making emotional vs logical purchases. 

The ‘unplanned’ buyers are those who make purchases because of a trigger they’ve seen which has reminded them they need something. Unplanned buyer purchases are usually motivated because of a ‘need’. 

We all make unplanned and impulsive shopping decisions and retailers can encourage consumers to make both impulse and unplanned purchases via different techniques including cross-selling. Cross-selling is encouraging shoppers to buy additional or complementary products to those they are already purchasing. The most widely used example of course is McDonalds 'Do you want fries with that?'. It’s not meant to be a pushy tactic it’s meant to offer the consumer something they genuinely might be interested in buying, helping to capture more impulsive shoppers effectively.

Capturing impulse shoppers

There’s lots of different ways of capturing your shoppers attention but we’ve put together a few different pointers. 

Placement of key merchandise - having products by the door, by the till or best sellers being easy to find is influential.  Grouping products together is important for easy identification as well as cross-selling and upselling. Look at what products people regularly buy together as well as dividing products up into natural groups. A good shopping layout is about disrupting the consumer's thinking, getting them to take notice and to take their time browsing.

Complementary products - placing complementary products together can help consumers remember how well they go together e.g. shoes next to insoles, encouraging add-on sales and unplanned purchases. 

Expensive vs cheap - having a £200 dress next to a dress on sale at £40 is likely to encourage shoppers looking for a bargain. Mixing low and high price point products will encourage bargain hunters.

Special offers and free gifts - by making the consumer feel special you’re creating an emotional bond. There’s a number of ways of doing this; in-store you could utilize beacons or SMS messaging, or pop-ups and specially targeted offers on your website. 

Promotions and discounts - there a number of tactics to use e.g. buy two get the third one free, the consumer feels like they are getting value for their money. Add a sense of urgency ‘SALE ends at midnight tonight!’, time limits encourage buyers to make decisions quickly. You can also try exclusivity like ‘New In’ or limited editions work well too.  

POS - having smaller, accessible items around the points of sale encourages consumer purchases as it’s easy to buy and it gives them less time to think about the purchase as they are waiting to pay. Online similarly you can have promotional items offered in the checkout process or related and suggested items advertised to encourage additional sales. 

If you have any other ways of capturing impulse shoppers which you are putting into action we’d love to hear them, please leave your comments below. 

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About the Author

Grainne is the Head of Campaigns at Brightpearl and leads the execution of Brightpearl's global campaign strategy. Having worked in the retail tech space for five years, learning more about how technology can help retailers grow is a huge topic of interest.