Activating the Impulse Buy

With over 75% of all retail purchases made in-store, there are many opportunities to drive consumer spending at brick-and-mortar. Impulse buying is a retailer’s best friend. Research by A.T. Kearney indicates that typically 40% of consumers spend more money than they planned in stores. Unplanned purchases continue to be a large revenue catalyst for brand marketers and retailers alike.

Impulse purchases account for a significant amount of consumer spending, with the average person, over the course of a lifetime, spending over $110,000 on impulsive purchases (Gaille 2014). “Two-thirds of the shopping that goes on in malls is impulse buying,” says Paco Underhill, author of the book, “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.” He goes on to say, “Actually two-thirds of the entire economy is impulse buying.” With only three seconds to capture a consumer’s attention with your message, a well-designed visual communications strategy can boost impulse purchases.

Here are some activation tips to consider:

Make your product the star

Getting shoppers to see your product is the most important step in generating an impulse decision. In part, increasing visibility with impulse purchases entails placing merchandise where shoppers are sure to see or experience it.

In Darby Roach’s book, “Your Three Second Window: Changing Everyday Moments into Extraordinary Opportunities for Success”, she states, “Researchers have been studying impulse buying for several decades and they’ve discovered some interesting things. One key discovery is that browsing creates a pleasant feeling, and the more we browse, the more likely we are to buy. And so stores are purposely designed to get us to wander about and expose ourselves to the merchandise.” Be sure to make your product easily browsable.

Take a look at your action alleys, endcaps, front-ends, and window sets to see if your product is correctly positioned. Perform a category or planogram review to make sure your positioning impulse items that are near high traffic areas and bestsellers.

Utilize activating colors

In regards to in-store signage, color plays a key role in drawing a consumer’s attention to a featured product or promotion. An ‘activated’ shopper is more likely to be drawn in and focused on a product. Warm colors such as red and yellow are activating colors that can increase arousal and impulsivity (Kolenda 2015). Typically a strong contrast in color, like combining bright yellow and black, also creates an instinctive reaction. When seeing activating colors, shoppers spend less time rationalizing or debating, and choose to act quickly.


Source: (Kolenda 2015) Colors influence impulsive actions

Appeal to the senses

In an impulsive moment, the mind and senses are heightened. Unplanned purchases are often triggered by strong activating stimuli, which the consumer responds to by making a purchase. Impulse buys come down to two basic motivations: avoiding pain or experiencing pleasure. A brand experience aids in shaping a shopper’s intent.

A brand experience is defined as, “Sensations, feelings, cognitions and behavioral responses evoked by brand-related stimuli that are part of a brand’s design and identity, packaging, communications, and environments.” Impulse buying is influenced by the smells, sights, and sounds more than the needs a person may have. You can enhance a brand experience and motivate a shopper to purchase by emotionally connecting your message to their senses.


Febreze pinwheels with scented UV coating cross-promote merchandise

Bring personality to your message

One way brand marketers activate the impulse component of our buying experience is by getting us to relate to their products on more human terms and connecting with our emotions. Studies have shown that emotional marketing has become a strategic way to build brand recall. You can entice shoppers and break through the clutter by building more personality into your messaging. Emotional motivators drive consumer behavior, build engagement and spur on unplanned purchases.


Create an emotional connection with your shopper