Impulse purchases should be part of your online marketing and sales strategy

When we think of impulse buying, we might think of that chocolate bar we threw into our cart at the grocery store while we waited in line to check out.

The reality is, a lot of online purchases are impulse purchases. Around 40% of consumer spending is impulse buying. So why don’t more online retailers factor that into their sales strategy and marketing?

There is the ethical question of course, but I think it’s because most retailers don’t consider it. They think they need to stretch out the customer buying cycle. It’s easier than you might think to get customers to buy from you the same day they learn about your product.


First you need to consider the types of impulse purchases that exist.

Impulse novelty purchases: These purchases are made simply because someone thinks the product is “cool”. There isn’t much to it: they liked it so they bought it. It didn’t require a lot of thinking.

Escape purchases: These are purchases that make people feel better about themselves or their situation. If your product can show people going from A to B after buying, it will be easier for them to picture themselves. It might also be a product that reminds them of a feeling or time when they were happier. This can also be considered a nostalgia purchase.

Suggestion purchases: These are purchases made by people who imagine a need for your product.

Addiction/habit purchases: These are self-explanatory. Your morning coffee, your daily pack of cigarettes, or your late night drive-thru snack are all fueled by this type of impulse purchase.

Deal purchases: When something is “too good to pass up” because it’s on sale, it’s considered a deal purchase.

Loss aversion purchases: These are purchases made when someone doesn’t want to miss out on something. Whether it’s the last concert in town from their favorite band, a limited quantity of a product, or even buying before a sale ends.

Now that we understand why people make impulse purchases, we can better position our products as well as design our websites.

Just think about how a physical retail store plans and organizes their layout. It’s all meant to milk impulse purchasing from customers.

The easiest strategy is to attempt to position your product so that it serves several or all of these kinds of impulse purchases.

The proven strategies are to bake in regular deals and scarcity into your store. For example, frequently run sales during holidays. Most people need a reason to shop, so give them one. Even if it doesn’t make sense to have a Thanksgiving or Valentine’s Day sale, test it anyway.

Also consider how you can implement some scarcity into your store. Whether it’s a limited time sale or limiting the quantity available to purchase (like Apple does with their iPhones).

Reduce the friction on your website, too. Are there too many steps during checkout for your customer? Do you ask for too much information upon checkout? You might be giving your customers too many reasons to change their minds.

Lastly, remember that impulse purchases are a great way to increase the average order value of your store.

Remember the chocolate bar example from earlier? Try doing upsells and cross sells with deals and scarcity to encourage a bigger checkout.

There are only a few suggestions, but I wanted to bring this up because I think it’s important to think about. We should think more about how and why people shop and not just what the shop for. If you are able to tailor an online experience to the most common online consumer behaviors, you will win.

Just take a look at Amazon. Reverse-engineer all the little details and you will start to realize that even the way they design their website is made for impulse purchases. Just think about the one-click checkout and Amazon Dash button. How can you streamline your checkout experience so it’s as easy as one click? How can you put more products in front of your customers?

Think about why people shop, then how they shop, then what.