Impulse Buying

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Definition: Impulse Buying

Impulse buying or impulse purchase is a spur-of-the-moment purchase, where the decision to buy a product is made just a moment before the actual purchase is done and is not pre-planned. Impulse buying happens because of an emotional or psychological trigger which entices a customer to make a spontaneous purchase to fulfill an urge. The customer does not do any research or planning before buying and simply buys the product which did not intend to buy in the first place.


Emotions often play a decisive role in impulse buying and is encouraged by a well-designed promotional messages. Impulse purchases are not just confined to small ticket items like chocolates but also includes costly items like clothing and fashion accessories. You may have often seen the billing counter in supermarkets have a number of showcases adjacent to it containing chocolates, soft toys and stationary items. This is often to encourage impulse buying as the consumer might want to buy one last item before exiting the supermarket. Such products are also often referred to as impulse goods. In many cases, customers regret their decision to buy a product spontaneously.


Factors influencing impulse buying

There are several factors which trigger an impulsive purchase from a customer. Some of the key reasons why impulse buying happens are listed below:

1. Placement of products: Stores often place products which induce the customer to simply buy the product instantly. For example if a person wants to buy a toothbrush, and sees a toothpaste next to it, they end up buying the toothpaste as well. This process is also called as impulse intercept merchandise, where a customer is intercepted by a product and they end up buying it.

2. Attractive displays: Window displays, in-store decoration, boards & signs often lead people into impulse buying as they feel attracted to the product at that moment

3. Purchasing capacity & mode of payment: A person with a high income is more likely to make an impulsive purchase as compared to person with a limited salary. Also, people who carry debut and credit cards are more likely to make a quick purchase as they need not worry about the amount of cash they are carrying.

4. Affinity towards a brand: If a customer has a soft corner for a brand, they tend to be more attracted towards it and end up buying it. This is more related to the brand loyalty that a customer has towards a particular brand or a company product

5. Impulsive buying behaviour: Some customers have a behaviour where they tend to make purchases in the moment without too much thinking. They make the decision to buy immediately as they feel an urgent requirement for the same.

6. Human Emotions: Many times human emotions like happiness, anger, loneliness trigger an impulsive buying decision. e.g. if a person is lonely they buy an audio CD of sad songs.

Thus, the above mentioned points summarize a few factors which influence impulsive buying.


Examples of impulse buying

Buying a product without too much thought of without planning in advance can happen very often. A few examples of impulse buying are:

1. If you are at a restaurant when you are hungry, you go there to buy food or a meal. However, once you are placing an order, you see your favorite beverage brand being served to another customer. Hence you end up buying that beverage too.

2. A husband is visiting a multi-brand store with his wife. While the wife is busy shopping, he suddenly sees a tshirt of his favorite color and brand. Despite the fact he has no immediate need for a tshirt, he buys it as a part of his impulse buying behaviour.

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