Impulse Purchase


What is impulse purchase?

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Team Storyly
May 22, 2023
0 min read

What is impulse purchase?

An impulse purchase is an unplanned and spontaneous buying decision made on the spot, often driven by emotions or a sense of urgency, rather than careful consideration or rational decision-making.

Impulse vs. compulsive shopping

Impulse shopping and compulsive shopping are often confused with each other.  In fact, these are two different concepts that can both result in unplanned purchases. It is important to differentiate them to understand what causes them and the potential consequences. 

Impulse shopping is when a shopper buys an item without having a prior intention. It often happens because of a sudden desire or emotional urge. Many people shop on the spur of the moment from time to time; thus, impulse shopping is a common phenomenon. 

On the other hand, compulsive shopping refers to excessive shopping cognitions and an inability to resist the urge to shop and purchase products in a way that would affect the quality of life. Psychological or emotional factors such as negative emotions including anxiety or loneliness can be among the underlying reasons for compulsive buying. This excessive urge to shop can even lead to financial problems, relationship issues, and other problems. 

Both impulse shopping and compulsive shopping involve unplanned purchases. However, compulsive shopping is characterized by excessive and possibly harmful behavior that may need professional assistance to overcome. 

Why is impulse purchase important?

Shoppers do not always start their shopping journey with a concrete list in their hands or an idea in their minds. An impulse purchase is important for businesses for several reasons:

Drives sales

By encouraging customers to buy more things they may not have planned to, impulsive purchases can increase a company's sales revenue. You can raise the total value of every customer transaction and raise a company's profitability.

Provides competitive advantage

A company that successfully generates impulse purchases can acquire a competitive edge by standing out from rivals, which can result in more sales, a larger market share, and a better reputation for the brand. However, businesses should note that impulse purchasing alone does not offer competitiveness, and the product needs to be consistent in terms of its promise and quality. 

Offers marketing opportunities

By strategically positioning products in high-traffic areas, providing customers with time-sensitive deals, and utilizing eye-catching packaging to tempt them, businesses can leverage impulse purchases as a marketing tactic.

What motivates impulse buyers

Impulse buyers are motivated by a variety of factors that prompt them to make unplanned purchases. Some of the key motivators of impulse buying include:

Emotional states

Emotions such as happiness, excitement or even boredom can drive impulse purchases. Consumers may decide to shop without prior thought to relieve negative emotions like stress or anxiety or to satisfy their temptation to buy. 

Scarcity or urgency

Creating a sense of urgency or the ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) can motivate impulse purchases. Exclusive offers, one-time deals, or items running out of stock can incentivize shoppers to take action immediately. 

Visual stimuli

Products with a visual appeal, such as eye-catching visuals or packaging, can attract customers and capture their attention. 

Discounts and sales

If customers are presented with a good deal, they won’t want to miss out on the opportunity. Therefore, discounts, sales, or other price deals can be effective incentivizes for impulse purchases. 

Social influence

Social factors such as peer influence, norms, or the desire to fit in with a specific social group may trigger impulse buying.

Personal factors

Impulse buying is influenced by a variety of personal attributes, including emotion, personality, and cultural influences. For instance, an extrovert customer may tend to make impulsive purchases on social occasions. On the contrary, a customer coming from a culture that values giving gifts may tend to purchase items as gifts right away.

Environmental conditions

Consumers’ shopping behaviors change depending on the weather conditions. Especially weather events that keep customers home have the potential to boost online sales. In fact, a study by Adobe shows that the impact of rainfall on ecommerce peaks when consumers experience between 0.8 and 1 inches of rain. As rain reaches this level, online spending boosts by 4.4%. Generally, environmental conditions can affect the way people shop and may lead to impulse purchases. 

Examples of impulse buying

According to Google, 1 in 3 purchases are impulsive purchases, especially in-store purchases, during the holiday season.  

So, what do shoppers spend the most on without having a prior thought? The most common online impulse purchases worldwide, by gender, are as follows: 

  • Clothes and shoes (Women: 57%, Men: 38%)
  • Toys, games or books (W: 38%, M: 44%)
  • Personal care products (W: 29%, M: 18%)
  • Electronics (W: 27%, M: 49%)
  • Home, furniture, or garden (W: 24%, M: 23%)

How to encourage impulse shopping

  1. Offer time-limited deals or promotions
  2. Create an attractive store layout and product displays
  3. Use eye-catching packaging and branding
  4. Use suggestive selling techniques
  5. Create a sense of urgency with limited stock or availability
  6. Offer free samples or trials
  7. Use social proof and endorsements to create desire

Offer time-limited deals or promotions

Businesses can encourage impulse shopping by offering time-limited deals or promotions. By creating a sense of urgency and scarcity, time-limited deals can motivate customers to make a purchase on the spot, rather than waiting or considering other options, and increase sales, as long as they are used strategically and do not negatively impact the business's profitability

For example, a business could offer a flash sale for a limited time, such as a few hours or a day, with a discount or free gift for customers who make a purchase during that time. This can create a sense of excitement and urgency among customers, motivating them to make a purchase they may not have planned on. Moreover, they can create a weather-based, limited-time campaign to incentivize customers to purchase products when the temperature drops below or rises above a specific range. 

Another example is offering a limited-time promotion for a specific product, such as a buy-one-get-one-free offer or a discount on a new product launch. This can create a sense of exclusivity and encourage customers to try something new or take advantage of a special offer before it expires.

Create an attractive store layout and product displays

Creating an attractive store layout and product displays is another strategy to encourage impulse shopping. Whether they have an online or offline store, businesses can benefit from presenting products in an appealing and organized way. They can capture customers’ attention and motivate them to make purchases on the spot.

Here are some tips for creating an attractive store layout and product displays:

Tips for online stores:

  1. Ensure a clear in-store path to guide your customers efficiently. While doing so, highlight your key products to draw attention to them.
  2. Make product discovery easy and deliver product recommendations for relevant products. Also, consider selling items as bundles at a discounted price. 
  3. Ensure that products are well-stocked and customers can access them easily, minimizing clutter and confusion. 
  4. Invest in an appealing website layout and product displays. Create a memorable and engaging shopping experience that inspires customers to make impulse purchases and increases revenues.

Extra tips for offline (physical) stores:

  1. To create a visually appealing and cohesive display, use visual merchandising strategies like color balancing, lighting, and product placement.
  2. Bring attention to special deals, one-time offers, or the debut of new products with the use of signage and displays.
  3. Incentivize your customers to try new products by utilizing interactive displays or demos on the way.
  4. To create a relaxing and welcoming shopping experience, take into account the store's whole ambiance, including the music, smells, and decor.
  5. Make it easy for your customers to discover products by grouping related products together as bundles. 

Use eye-catching packaging and branding

By creating visually appealing packaging and branding, businesses can capture customers' attention and create a sense of desire or curiosity that motivates them to make a purchase on the spot.

Use suggestive selling techniques

Using suggestive selling techniques is another strategy for encouraging impulse shopping. Suggestive selling involves making product recommendations or adding complementary items to a customer's purchase to increase the overall sale value and encourage impulse purchases.

Here are some tips for using suggestive selling techniques:

  1. Get your sales team ready to make personalized product recommendations regarding customers’ needs and preferences, ensure you train the team. 
  2. Encourage the purchase of complementary products by using CTAs or signage such as "complete the look" or "customers also bought."
  3. In online stores, provide relevant product recommendations to shoppers depending on the product they have purchased before. Use Storyly Stories to enable one-click buying with product tags, swipe-ups and customizable CTA buttons. 
  4. Offer special deals or discounts on complimentary products bought together.  
  5. Upsell by encouraging customers to choose another pricing option or add supplementary features to the items they purchase.
  6. Inspire customers with personalized emails tailored to their preferences. Use personalized Inbox Stories to send out engaging, interactive emails that feature the most relevant offers for customers. 
  7. Suggest well-liked or highly rated products by utilizing social proof such as customer testimonials or best-seller lists.
  8. To stimulate an impulse purchase, use suggestive selling strategies throughout the checkout process, such as giving away a sample or adding a small item to the purchase.

Create a sense of urgency with limited stock or availability

Creating a sense of urgency with limited stock or availability is another strategy for encouraging impulse shopping. By highlighting that a product is in high demand or that there are limited quantities available, businesses can create a sense of urgency that motivates customers to make a purchase on the spot.

Offer free samples or trials

Businesses can offer free samples or trials to encourage impulsive shopping. Customers will be more willing to make a purchase if they are familiar with the product. To generate trust and a sense of familiarity, allow customers to try a product before making a purchase.  

The following are some tips for offering free trials or samples to customers:

  1. Emphasize the free offer with accurate language. Utilize CTAs and phrases such as “try before you buy” or “free sample with purchase”. 
  2. In your online store, utilize in-App Stories or Web Stories to offer free trials or samples. Encourage the hype around your offers by creating a full-screen, engaging shopping experience using Stories. 
  3. In a physical setting, demonstrate the free samples with signage or displays, such as “free samples available here” or “try our new product for free”. 
  4. Incentivize customers to try out a new product. Provide a free sample or trial as an add-on alongside a large purchase. 

Utilize social proof and endorsements

Building social proof and endorsements can also help encourage impulse shopping. If a customer sees that another person is satisfied with their purchase from your business, they will be more willing to buy from you. Display positive reviews or endorsements from satisfied customers or influencers to create a sense of trust for your product and the brand.  

Here are some ways to utilize social proof to build trust:

  • Show the popularity and quality of the product by making use of customer reviews and ratings on your website or social media. 
  • Collaborate with social media influencers or celebrities to display the product and encourage their audience to buy from you. 
  • Allow customers to share user-generated content and feature customer photos or testimonials on your website or social media. 
  • Announce the latest awards or recognitions your brand has gained to express the quality of the product. 
  • Feature testimonials or endorsements from reputable industry experts or organizations to create credibility and trust with the product. Use language that signifies the positive feedback your products have acquired, such as “the customers’ favorite” or “endorsed by top experts”.
  • Publish before-and-after photos or videos to display the effectiveness of the product, if possible.


Team Storyly

Group of experts from Storyly's team who writes about their proficiency.