Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat: impulse buying has sort of become a dirty term. It needn’t be. That is because impulse buying, a neutral term, is often associated with feelings of regret when an unplanned purchase tends to not live up to the value that was immediately associated with it upon purchase. We also tend to think of negative impulse purchases with far more clarity than positive ones. That time you bought an awesome bracelet on the fly and wore it for a full summer? Positive buy. The time you bought an animal shaped hat at a theme-park and relegated it to the back of your closet a week later? Not so much.
Interestingly, it seems that impulse purchases in physical retail stores are actually down in recent years. While it would be nice to think that we are just getting more careful as consumers overall, some have posited that in reality the reason for this decrease is due to a phenomena known as “mobile blinders.” This refers to those situations where consumers pay attention to their smartphones rather than the tasty treats and knick-knacks that surround them when they aren’t in an active buy mode.
However, while smartphones are decreasing the number of physical impulse purchases, they may actually be increasing impulse purchases overall. According to a study conducted by PayPal, smartphones lead to something that I’ll describe as an intelligent impulse purchase. Essentially, rather than simply buying an object on the fly, a smartphone enables a user to go through the desire > research > purchase cycle in minutes rather than hours or days. That way, a user is both more likely to buy a product that find interesting while simultaneously increasing the likelihood that they will be satisfied with the purchase overall.
So what does this mean for small business or ecommerce owners with a mobile app? With creative messaging and communication channels, you have the ability to directly target products to customers with a high likelihood that they will buy on the spot. It also means that cultivating both an engaged and happy customer base (they will likely try and see what others have said about your stuff, after all) will provide exponential returns.
If you own an app already, what is your strategy for triggering the impulse buy? If you don’t how would you use it to make that happen?