Wednesday , June 19 2024
The psychology of impulse buying.

Gotta Have It: Impulse Marketing (Part 1 of 2)

According to Paul Nunes and Brian Johnson, the authors of Mass Influence, most people generally buy with their emotions. Later, they justify their purchases with logic. In other words, people buy impulsively. They did not go into the store or go online planning to buy what they ended up buying. They were shopping for a particular item, but spotted something else. Curious, they examined it, and wanted it. So they bought it.

It is called impulsive buying.

Statistics state that 20% of what shoppers buy at the grocery store is bought on impulse. However, the numbers vary widely based on other factors, such as if the buyer drove to the store or rode a bike, whether they are young or old, married or unmarried, and whether they consider themselves browsers or “fast and efficient” shoppers. Shopping online versus shopping in a traditional store makes a difference too. This will be discussed in more detail below.

Some stores have experimented with product placement, tracking the results to see if it encourages impulse buying. For example, Wilco Gas Stations placed Mexican blankets between the Twinkies and the coffee. Wilco discovered the blankets sold very well, while the Twinkies and coffee continued to sell at the normal rate. Wilco could not explain the sudden sales of Mexican blankets.

In Florida and the Gulf Coast, Wal-Mart tracked all its sales before and after forecasted hurricanes. They discovered something surprising. When a hurricane was anticipated, sales of strawberry Pop Tarts increased by 700%. Wal-Mart does not know exactly why. But whenever a hurricane is predicted, Wal-Mart sends truckloads of strawberry Pop Tarts to the concerned locations.

Roy Williams, who specializes in consumer psychology, identifies two types of shoppers: transactional and relational. Transactional buyers purchase items they need or planned on buying. Relational buyers purchase items they do not need, but relate to for a number of emotional reasons.

Generally speaking, transactional purchases of goods or services are made for the following reasons:

  • Basic needs: people buy food and shelter to remain alive.
  • Convenience: people buy things they know they will need in the near future, taking the easiest and fastest route to get them. Convenience purchases include choosing a “safe” brand, because they have heard of it.
  • Replacement: people buy new things to replace worn out things, such as clothing and electronic devices.
  • Lower Prices: people make a planned purchase sooner than expected because the item was available at a lower than expected price.
  • Compulsory Purchases: people purchase things required for work or school.
  • Special Events: people buy gifts for birthdays, graduations, and Christmas.

Relational purchases are primarily emotional purchases, and are usually classified as impulsive. The reasons for them include:

  • Scarcity: people buy things perceived to have limited availability. This category includes collectibles and investment opportunities.
  • Prestige or Aspiration: people buy things for reasons of self-esteem and self-enrichment. These purchases make them feel better about themselves.
  • Emotional Emptiness: people buy things they believed they would never own. These purchases fill an emotional vacuum in their lives.
  • Brand Recognition: people buy an expensive name brand in an attempt to move up to a more luxurious experience.
  • Popular Trend: people buy something because their favorite celebrity or musician has it, which makes them feel “in.”
  • Ego: people buy things to improve their status and impress others.
  • Group Identity: people buy things because their friends or peers do. This can include purchases made because of peer pressure, especially for teenagers.
  • Addiction: people buy things because they are shop-a-holics.

Relational or impulsive purchases may be influenced by appeals to certain emotional concepts, which are:

  • Convenience: in today’s world everyone, especially the affluent customer, is busy, and never has enough time. An item or service that saves time or effort has a strong emotional attraction.
  • Saving or Making Money: everyone wants to save money, especially if they can make money with the money they save.
  • Peace of Mind: any item that provides peace of mind also provides emotional harmony.
  • Image or Ego: everyone desires a pleasing image and is motivated by self-interest. This category is persuaded by powerful emotions.
  • Pleasure: everyone wants to have fun and enjoy life.

(To be continued in part 2)

About Randall Radic

Left Coast author and writer. Author of numerous true crime books written under the pen-name of John Lee Brook. Former music contributor at Huff Post.

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