Impulse Purchases Still Happen Mostly In-Store—For Now - eMarketer

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Impulse Purchases Still Happen Mostly In-Store—For Now

CPGs well-positioned for prompting online buys

February 14, 2017

There are lots reasons consumers don’t like shopping at physical stores, including challenges with comparison shopping and long checkout lines. But if there’s one thing people do prefer to do in a brick-and-mortar setting, it’s make impulse purchases.

Primary Location/Device Used to Make Impulse Purchases* According to US Consumers, Jan 2017 (% of respondents)

However, recent trends in ecommerce suggest this could change in the near future.

A January 2017 survey by found that 68% of US consumers said their primary location for making impulse buys was “in person in a store.”

Digital methods were much less preferred: Only 21% said they bought impulsively on a desktop/laptop, and just 10% did so primarily via smartphone or tablet.

The amount spent on such purchases can vary significantly. As the survey discovered, the percentage of high rollers (those who spent between $100 and $500) and the percentage of penny-pinchers (spending less than $25) was about the same—just over 15% of respondents.

Highest Amount that US Consumers Have Spent on Impulse Purchases*, Jan 2017 (% of respondents)

Although in-store impulse purchasing is still the norm, some experts see change on the horizon. The consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry, which has long depended on incentivizing consumers to make in-store impulse purchases, is increasingly adapting its approach to appeal more to online impulse shoppers.

“The difference between the physical shopping cart and the online cart is that in the store, shoppers walk down the aisle, see a product at arm’s length, it’s $2 and they choose to buy it. There is a very low barrier,” said Jennifer Silverberg, CEO of CPG ecommerce technology suite SmartCommerce. “To replicate that online, CPG companies have to make it easier to get a product into the cart, and hit shoppers at exactly the right moment.”

One company that is thinking about how to capitalize on impulse purchases in ecommerce is Teleflora. The online floral delivery company, which tends to rely on marketing tactics like search marketing, is experimenting more with paid social advertising to encourage more in-the-moment purchases via digital means.

“If we can understand exactly who a consumer is and how they’re jumping between devices, we could see a lot of growth for social,” said Beth Monda, Teleflora’s vice president of ecommerce.

—Jeremy Kressmann

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