10 Tactics Retailers Can Use to Encourage Impulse Buying

Impulse buying | Shopify Retail blog

In every retail store, encouraging customers to buy on impulse is a tried-and-true way to boost average purchase value. Impulse buying goes way back, and it’s still overwhelmingly common — some 77% of shoppers say they’ve made a spontaneous impulse purchase in the past three months.

With so much of our shopping moving online, impulse buys are one of the proven tactics brick-and-mortar retailers have firmly in their corner. In fact, 79% of impulse buys still take place in physical retail stores. That’s why smart retailers make finding a way to capitalize on impulse purchases a priority in their stores.

Successfully encouraging impulse buying comes down to a few main factors:

  • Choosing the right products,
  • Putting them in the right place, and
  • Grabbing shopper attention.

We pulled together 10 trusty tactics you can use to boost the frequency and value of impulse purchases in your retail store.

1. Create a Path for Customers to Follow

Encouraging impulse purchases requires the right mix of product selection and product placement. It’s much easier for you to find the best placement for impulse buys when customers follow a predetermined path through your store. By drawing on specific store layouts and interior design principles, you can lead customers past your high-demand items and plan for more predictable foot traffic.

When you design a path for customers to walk, you can better predict where customers will need a visual break, where they’re likely to linger, and which types of product displays they’ll pass on their way through the store. That makes it easier to determine the best placement for impulse displays. Read more about how to create a path for your customers here.

FURTHER READING: Not sure what store layout will work best for your business? Check out our guide to retail store layouts.

2. Place Lower-Priced, Impulse Buys Near Checkout

Point-of-purchase display, impulse buying | Shopify Retail blog

Image: TobyDesforges.com

The average customer isn’t going to impulsively spend $1,000 without a second thought. That’s why price is one of the most important factors in choosing the right products to use for impulse displays. For checkout and point-of-purchase impulse buying, it’s best to keep all products under about $20. That way, you can boost purchase values with products that customers are ready to buy without too much consideration.

Another way to keep impulse prices down is to use your designated impulse purchase areas to display products that are on sale. Take Bath & Body Works, for example. They frequently offer discounted samplers of new fragrances right next to the cash registers. Combining sale prices with the urgency of a limited-time promotion is a recipe for impulse buying.

FURTHER READING: Learn how to leverage the science of sales to move more merchandise.

3. Display Impulse Products Around Your High-Demand Items

If you’re like me, when you think about impulse buys, you picture long, structured displays leading to the checkout counter in HomeGoods (they get me every time!) Your checkout area isn’t the only place where you can capitalize on impulse buying, though.

HomeGoods point-of-purchase display | Shopify Retail blog

Image: Yelp

Another high-impact place to display impulse products is alongside your high-demand items — a separate display to give shoppers a visual break or included on your store’s power wall.

In this space, choose lower-priced products that complement in-demand, anchor products. For example, a grocery store might display waffle cones in front of the ice cream freezer. You’ll capitalize on the attention and foot traffic that high demand products draw combined with the urgency of impulse products.

4. Use the Right Language to Communicate Urgency

Speaking of urgency, impulse purchases only happen when you can create a sense of it in customers’ minds. Impulse buys generally draw on one of two things:

  • Shoppers’ wants or
  • Staple items.

That’s why candy and socks are two things you’ll often see near the checkout line. When you display products that customers desire, that desire does a lot of the heavy lifting that spurs shoppers to buy now. But when you use the checkout line to display promotional items or everyday staples, it’s your job to build that sense of Gotta have it now!

The right language — including phrases like “Buy now” and “Get it before they’re gone” — is one of the tools that can help you create more desire for staple items.

5. Anticipate Your Customers’ Needs

When we talk about products that are impulse buys, we aren’t talking about a concrete or defined set of items. The products that your customers buy impulsively might be the same products as your neighbor stores — or they might be completely different.

Understanding the best products for your impulse buy displays is all about knowing your customers and being able to anticipate their needs. Are your customers marathon shoppers who spend hours going from one store to the next? They might respond to bottled water or ChapStick in the checkout line. Is your customer shopping for home décor to capture a particular feeling in their space? Maybe scented candles are just what they’re missing to complete the room.

6. Draw Attention to Impulse Buys

HomeGoods stores take advantage of the captive audience of customers waiting in line to check out. For other impulse displays throughout the store (or if you don’t have the space for point-of-purchase displays), you’ll need to take extra steps to draw attention to those products.

Aside from placing products in the right areas of your store, you can draw on three main things to grab shopper attention:

  • Signage: Use signage on and around impulse displays to get customers to pay attention and, as we talked about before, use language that creates a sense of urgency.
  • Lighting: Try colored lighting, spotlighting, or any lighting that sets the display apart from the rest of your store.
  • Color: Bright, bold colors can draw customers’ attention and help create the feeling you want to go along with your impulse buys — like red for sale or promotional items.

7. Choose Products That Require Little Consideration

While it may seem obvious that high-priced products aren’t great for encouraging impulsivity, there’s more that goes into choosing the right impulse buys than just price. A high price can make shoppers pause before buying, but so can too many options.

Old Navy power wall, impulse buying | Shopify Retail blog

Image: Flickr

That’s why the best impulse displays limit anything that requires the customer to decide between one option or another. For example, Old Navy’s flip-flops are brightly colored and inexpensive, so they might seem like a perfect impulse buy in the summer. But a display featuring all 50 different colors can overwhelm customers and make them hesitate long enough to reconsider the impulse.

So, be deliberate in your product choices. Curate a few select items to populate your display so customers don’t have to spend too long choosing between different color or size variations.

8. Offer Product Samples or Demos

Not every retail store can offer samples or demos of their products, but for those that can, they can go a long way in convincing shoppers to buy something they didn’t plan on. By giving shoppers a small taste (actual or metaphorical) of products, you can boost impulse buying.

Food sample stations throughout Whole Foods are a great example of this concept. You may not have come in looking for vegan muffins, but if you get a taste, you might not leave the store without them. Sephora’s makeovers are another perfect case study of retailers offering demos. Shoppers who come in to buy foundation might just fall in love with the lip stain employees put on them.

9. Showcase Seasonal Items

I don’t know about you, but when I go through a checkout line with seasonal decor, scented candles, or hand soap, I’m sold. Seasonal items are one of the best choices for your checkout and impulse displays because they tap into that sense of urgency — seasonal products are inherently available for a limited time.

Choosing to display seasonal items also makes it easy to switch up your point-of-purchase displays regularly, which is key to winning impulse buys from repeat customers who’ve seen your displays before.

FURTHER READING: Not sure how to create high-impact displays near your check out counter? Learn more about how you can optimize your point-of-purchase displays to increase sales.

10. Train Floor Staff to Encourage Impulse Buying

Getting customers to make impulse buys isn’t just about the products and where you put them. Your store employees are one of the most underutilized tools you have to encourage impulse purchases. Train your staff on how to make complementary product suggestions on the floor and how to direct shopper attention to point-of-purchase displays.

At the end of the day, real conversations and recommendations are the most effective way to get customers to make impulse purchases.

FURTHER READING: Hire, train, and retain top-notch retail employees with our guide.

Encourage More Impulse Purchases

When it comes to growing purchase values and customer lifetime value, impulse buying can go a long way. As more of our shopping habits are shaped by the ecommerce experience, impulse purchases are one of the ways brick-and-mortar retailers can boost sales and stay competitive. And the tactics above will help you drive more impulse purchases than ever.