Impulse/Unplanned purchases

Techniques to increase impulse/unplanned purchasing

Impulse/Unplanned purchasing is the action of a consumer purchasing a good in which they had not planned to buy as a result of a sudden whim or impulse. These impulse buys account for a significant chunk of the consumer spending. According to a study by Marketing Support, Inc. and Leo J. Shapiro and Associates, about one-third of all consumers make a sizeable impulse buy every week, with an average purchase of $30. By employing techniques to increase the average impulse buy of a consumer, a business can see their average sales grow rapidly over a short period of time.

Marketers and store front owners are able to employ specific techniques in order encourage consumers to make these impulsive buys. Throughout this blog I will identify and provide examples of techniques in which I believe would increase these unplanned sales to the highest potential.

1. Increasing visibility 

Donald R. Lichtenstein, a professor of marketing and associate dean at the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business, told the publication that getting customers to see your product is “the first and most important step in impulse buying.”

In order for a consumer to buy a specific product they must be able to see it! One of the major influences on impulse purchasing is the customers attention being drawn to the specific product and the appealing aspects of this product, which often revolves around the price tag. Increased visibility can be done via the use of signage, using large formats and bright colours attention can be drawn to specific items which may be at a discounted rate.

An example of how businesses are using signage to encourage unplanned buying can be seen in almost all grocery stores. Woolworths uses large isle ends located at the front of the stores to create displays often with bulk stacked goods and yellow signage depicting the was and now prices as well as the percentage or dollar value saved by the customer. Encouraging customers to ‘Save More Everyday’



2. Strategic Positioning 

Like myself I am sure majority of you have given into the temporary lapse of self-control which typically occurs during the moments as you are waiting at the check out to purchase the goods you actually needed where the $1.00 chocolates or half priced gum await. Placing products at the checkout zone is a common and highly effective tactic that pretty much all retail shop fronts use in their marketing set. This tactic has been proven by fact as shoppers who are at the point-of-sale area are already in the mood to buy, so the chances of them making additional purchases are relatively higher.

An example of a store using strategic positioning would be Victoria Secret, who using display fixtures close to the counter filled with the inexpensive items in the store. This coupled with attractive promotional deals such as buy three get one for free encourages the customers waiting to be served to browse and potentially make an unplanned purchase of the cheaper items at the check out.


Another example of the use of strategic positioning of products in order to encourage consumers to make unplanned purchases, is by placing a popular product towards the back of the store to encourage consumers to walk past other products which may lead to impulse buys. Grocery stores often also implement this technique with milk.

Merchandising specific products next to complementary goods is another way to encourage impulse buys via the use of strategic positioning. For example a retail outlet selling furniture will often merchandise ‘ranges’ including a dining table, matching dining chairs, buffets and entertainment units all in the same room sets in order to provoke consumers to purchase a number of matching furniture pieces rather then separates.

3. Consumers phycological triggers 

Adhering to consumers phycological being is a way in which marketers can entice impulse buys.

  • Urgency – The use of promotions that pronounce limited stock offers and wording such as ‘hurry offer ends soon’ creates a sense of urgency for the customer and can contribute to impulse buys as often the consumer does not have time to “think about it”
  • Value – Emphasising the value to customers is another way in which to force impulse buying, buy one get one free offers, or spend and save offers set the consumers mind set to the fact they are getting products for free or saving money when purchasing more.
  • Testers and return policies – By letting a consumer trial the purchase before they buy or giving them the option to return the item will often encourage the consumer to purchase the item without having to much thought behind it. NChannel.coms economic statistics state that 18% of consumers that are unhappy with a product they have purchased will not return the item back to the store, instead will disregard of keep but not use. 




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