We’ve all done it – bought something we didn’t intend to when beginning a shopping task. How much do these impulse buys contribute to sales, and how can advertisers encourage them in the e-commerce and mobile landscape?
Impulse Buys are Big Business
Last month, Slickdeals released findings of its survey on impulse spending, which revealed some interesting things about American consumers’ habits. On average, these shoppers spend $450 a month, or $5,400 a year, on impulse buys. That adds up to $324,000 over a lifetime of shopping.
Respondents reported that 20 percent of what they purchase is bought on impulse and is usually obtained in a store or restaurant. The items most commonly bought this way are:
- Food and other groceries.
- Household items.
For example, 75 percent of respondents buy candy in checkout lines, 32 percent decide to buy food after passing a restaurant and 25 percent buy shoes when they see them in the store.
As we’ve discussed before, mood can impact consumers’ willingness to engage with a brand. While we already knew that “upbeat” moods make consumers more likely to click on digital ads (see previous link), Slickdeals tells us that happy/excited consumers are more likely to buy on impulse than are sad/stressed shoppers. Advertisers can use this knowledge when setting the tone of creative content.
In addition, impulse buyers are slightly more likely to be buying for themselves (54 percent), which could also color the way advertisers present their products.
Certain things, beyond instant gratification, do drive impulse buying. Among Slickdeal’s respondents:
- Sixty-four percent impulse shop because of deals.
- Forty percent went out to buy something after getting a coupon in the mail.
- Thirty-three percent bought something after getting a coupon via email.
- Twenty-one percent tend to impulse buy while online.
The power of suggestion seems to go a long way here, driving the desire for instant gratification. In a landscape where consumers have constant access to coupons and deals as well as buying opportunities, it’s important for advertisers to make solid offers that encourage swift action.
Slickdeals supports this idea by saying:
“… equate impulse purchasing with saving money … It’s an effortless way to save money on products you will need in the future – why wait until you run out of something, only to pay full price, when you can anticipate your needs in advance and save money in the process?”
It’s just one more guide for advertisers speaking to upbeat shoppers who are ready to grab something for themselves or someone else.
How Mobile Has Changed Impulse Buying and Advertising
AdAge took an interesting look at how impulse buying has changed in recent years, and drew a line between the rise of smartphones and the drop in impulse buys of products like chewing gum.
Items that traditionally relied on impulse buying (chewing gum, magazines, etc.) also relied on shoppers’ boredom as they waited in line, for example. Now that shoppers have a source of entertainment in their pockets and purses, that kind of boredom simply doesn’t happen as often.
At the same time, those shoppers now see plenty of ads on their phones. So, advertisers are in a new position: Don’t frame impulse buy items as cures for boredom, but for the spectrum of mobile users, who are somewhere between “on-the-go” (in line, peeking at a phone during a meeting, etc.) and “leaned-back” (scrolling while lounging on their patio, perhaps).
Bring Impulse Buying Online with Design, Location Data and Social Media
Driving impulse buying is a different process for e-commerce than it is for brick and mortar stores. Unlike a pack of gum or a magazine in the check-out lane, an online purchase won’t satisfy that desire for instant gratification. Yet, we know from Slickdeals that impulse buying online is a common activity.
User Interface Engineering (UIE) did a white paper on What Causes Customers to Buy on Impulse, citing the stat that 40 percent of e-commerce money comes from impulse buys. UIE goes on to say that this has less to do with price (as shoppers might assume) and more to do with site design elements, such as category links (which make it easier to find items shoppers truly want).
For advertisers, this could mean highlighting great deals and promotions and then ensuring that ads direct consumers to the site’s distinct categories.
Location data also has a role to play in this mash-up of impulse buying and mobile use. When advertisers use it to better understand customers and how to reach them, they might drive some unplanned purchases. For example, if you can share a coupon for coffee with someone on your shop’s street, they’re more likely to impulsively stop in than someone who’s a mile away.
Finally, if you want consumers to purchase impulsively, go where they already are. Social media is a great place to advertise to those leaned-back consumers we mentioned earlier, and you can learn how it influences the path to purchase in our post from last year.
Even though impulse buying online might look different than impulse buying in the check-out lane, consumers are still open to unplanned purchases. If your ads make the opportunities timely, targeted and simple, many of those purchases could be from you.