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The Power Of Impulse Buying

Though impulse buying applies to both online and offline buying, people tend to do it more offline than online

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The customer buying behavior has changed drastically since the last decade, and changing still. So much so that the decade is now the wrong measure to begin with. But we are not going to talk about relativity of time here. What we are talking about is that part of buying behavior which experts say influence 40-60% of all buying decisions (depending on the methodology and concepts based on). What we are talking about is Impulse Buying. That buying behavior characterized as unplanned, spontaneous, immediate, unconscious and emotionally driven. And just to make the rest of the discussion easier, on the other end is planned, deliberate, sensible, cautious, pre-meditative, thoughtful, and rationally driven buying behavior.

Impulse buying is most strong offline than online.

Though impulse buying applies to both online and offline buying, I would say that impulse buying is most strong offline than online. Online has a huge advantage of a wide assortment of goods to meet all kinds of wants, needs, and demands. Add to that the tools of assortment and selection. As the customer is spending more time in the digital store, he is using the available tools to make his choices and decision simpler. And while he's doing it, his decision on every step is becoming more rational. And by the time he zeroes in on the product, he has crossed anywhere between 1-5 rational steps, be it price, brand, aesthetic, use, feature, or any other. With every click, the emotional quotient decreases, and the rational quotient increases.

We are being continuously flooded with information. With the abundance of information and falling of constraints in this tech era, buying online is as simple as is complex. The assortment and choices are unending. Well, the tools available make the decision possible. I say "possible" intentionally instead of saying "easier" as there is no way we could choose otherwise. It is now becoming so easy to make a rational decision. Go back 10 years when we had to make the "big decision" to buy a car, and days would go buy collecting information and comparing and assessing reviews to make a sound and proud decision. The information part has been made so much easier online. . And the quality of our decisions, in light of the information available, has become much better. By the time we go to the seller to finalize, we have already zeroed in on the purchase itself, or max 2-3 choices amongst the so many initially. In fact, most of the times, we have already made the decision, and we are going to the seller just to reinforce the decision we have already made.

The assortment and choices are unending. Well, the tools available make the decision possible. I say "possible" intentionally instead of saying "easier" as there is no way we could choose otherwise.

The customers are (and love to be) smart. The vastness in products and simplification with tools makes the decision smarter. Hence the obvious growth of online is inevitable. But can you take the HUMAN aspect out of buying completely? Can you be smart always? Can you be always rational? So for all the times you feel like being human, impulse buying will remain, always.

But can you take the HUMAN aspect out of buying completely? Can you be smart always? Can you be always rational? So for all the times you feel like being human, impulse buying will remain, always.

He's extremely hungry so he would probably go to the first food outlet he sets his eye on. His hunger takes the rational out. He's travelling with his one pair of shoes which break beyond repair. That's a sale made for the most convenient option at that time. On the last day of his trip or vacation when he's shopping souvenirs, he doesn't have an option to come empty handed. So he will buy. Sometimes the customer is just out shopping and he'll shop. These are just some of the cases when it's easier to be offline when impulsive. It's your lucky day as a retailer when you get such a happy customer. Your job is not to sell anymore. Your job is to keep him happy, or better still, happier. Sale happened when he entered your store. What you can do however is sell more.

It's your lucky day as a retailer when you get such a happy customer. Your job is not to sell anymore. Your job is to keep him happy, or better still, happier. Sale happened when he entered your store. What you can do however is sell more.

But let me state the fact once again that the customer is smart. And that's the way he would like it to remain. So at no point in the buying decision, would you appeal to his emotions at the cost of the rational. To put it simply, you're appealing to his emotional need, but you state the rational. There are times when he has already decided he wants something. The rest of the buying act is just that … an act. He wants to pamper himself with that expensive shirt on his promotion. He'll not go to 10 stores to check out and compare like he usually does, but would rather buy his aspiration brand without much thought. Knowing he'll get the same shirt of the other brand much cheaper, but nowhere in the buying journey he would like to be told that. It's easier to understand this offline, but online, by rationalizing his needs further, it breaks his decision by laying some more rational decisions not needed.

More times than not, the customer will be rational. He will make the best buy. For the times he's not, he'll still like to think he made the best buy. As a retailer, you will always have your share of impulse buying. But for a smart customer, you must be a smart retailer, and appeal to his impulses rationally. Would you sell the hungry customer the first item on the menu every time ? Or the time pressed customer the first thing he picks when he comes in? You always have a say in his buying journey, but not independent of his own. An impulse buyer can simply state his needs as they're few. And as a seller it's easier for you to meet them. It's easier to satisfy this customer, and thereby sell to this customer. The rational buyer is anything but rational, as he seeks the best of everything, and often is left with multiple winners for multiple needs. It's tough to be rational all the time. To be impulsive, it's not.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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retail e-commerce consumer behaviour

Meetpal Singh

The author is Business Head and Senior Consultant - BD & Sales, Retail, Fashion

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