Leverage impulse buying behavior for more sales


How many of us have walked into a store for “just one thing” but find ourselves leaving with hundreds of dollars in purchases?

Those impulse buys, whether we realize it or not, are usually the product of a well-planned impulse purchase strategy.

You can turn any customer’s short shopping list into a cart full of items with the right mix of in-store marketing, tech-enablement, and attention-getting signage — even in today’s “get in and get out” shopping mindset.

Let's look at what impulse buying behavior looks like today, some new and emerging opportunities, and smart moves you can make with your signage and in-store marketing to create the strongest impact and optimize your impulse purchase strategy.

People make an average of 12 impulse purchases per month.”

What does impulse buying behavior look like today?

Impulse buying is a universal experience.

Whether shoppers want an emotional lift, are suffering from decision fatigue, are worried about missing out on a deal, or are simply grabbing items without really thinking about them, people make an average of 12 impulse purchases per month, according to a recent survey.

For retailers, this is welcome news.

After tightening belts last year, consumers are ramping up their buying. Shoppers in the study spent an average of $276 every month on impulse purchases — a 51% increase from the $183 per month reported previously. (We suspect supply chain issues may be one contributor to this increase. People might be less willing to risk walking away from an item if there’s only one left on the shelf.)

And there’s more good news: Because how people shop is changing, there are plenty of new and emerging opportunities to optimize your impulse purchase strategy.

New impulse buying opportunities

The one-two punch of innovative technology emerging during a global pandemic has created more ways for consumers to shop than ever before — and each of those new channels presents new opportunities for impulse buying behavior.

Buy Online Pickup in Store (BOPIS)

BOPIS is here to stay: The majority of shoppers have tried it in some form and over 90% say it’s convenient.

At first blush, there might not seem to be much in the way of impulse opportunities with BOPIS transactions. But because BOPIS merges the online and physical store experiences, both channels can be used to encourage more sales:

  • After the order is placed, the checkout thank-you page and confirmation email can point out some related items that are currently on an in-store promotion, piquing the shopper’s interest in expanding their purchase.
  • At the BOPIS pickup itself, impulse or add-on items can be an easy upsell: 67% of click-and-collect users buy more items from that retailer when picking up their order.
  • If your BOPIS has curbside, strategically designed and well-placed signage and other visual assets can entice the shopper to come in and do a bit of browsing.
Scan and go

Mega-retailers in big box stores have taken self-serve checkout to a new level with their “scan and go” options. Using an app, shoppers can easily scan items as they place them into their carts, pay for them on the app when they’re done, and walk out of the store without having to go near a checkout.

And while it might appear your impulse strategy would suffer from customers avoiding the checkout, scan and go technology can actually improve impulse shopping.

How? It removes a layer of friction from the purchase, which reduces the chances for second thoughts.

Apps and incentives

Speaking of apps, they’re a great way to encourage customers to impulse shop. Stores can push notifications of flash sales, offer extra reward points for specific purchases, or use QR codes to give customers more information on items like product reviews or recipes.

With any of these strategies, the more you lean into your visual marketing and communications, the more you can educate your customers on the BOPIS, scan and go, and app-driven incentives available to them — ultimately helping you capitalize on all this revenue potential.

Visual communications best practices for your impulse strategy

This new retail landscape provides the perfect moment for you to rethink and refresh the way your visual communications encourages desired shopping behaviors.

Think beyond the checkout corridor

The attitudes and behaviors that lead to an impulse purchase are there from the moment the customer walks into the store. And with today’s technology, the entire store can provide opportunities for impulse purchases.

So, strategically place impulse items close to action alleys or other high-traffic areas in the store, whether it’s near staple items, next to the fitting rooms, adjacent to the BOPIS location, or along main throughfare areas.

Then, use your visual communications and signage to make sure customers see these items.

Prioritize “Shopability”

Another reason to distribute impulse shopping opportunities throughout the store instead of clustering them at the POP is that it helps reduce bottlenecks and gives people more time to look at these items without feeling rushed or worried they’re holding up other shoppers.

Another good way to eliminate bottlenecks is to consider the footprint and access to your impulse item displays. If you have room, a four-sided display can be a powerful and easily accessible magnet for customers. Or depending on the location, a one- or two-sided display might make it easier for shoppers to navigate.

Maximize visibility

How do you make sure customers see those impulse items?

Start at the end — your end caps, that is.

End caps are the “pick me” spots in your store. Shoppers can’t help but notice them… so, give them something to look at: A gorgeous visual display will transform that end cap from “interesting” to “irresistible.”

Impulse items can be placed in the aisles as well — if you draw attention to them with attractive blade signage. These are great for calling out promotions, such as a “3 for $10” special on a certain brand’s entire line of cereals.

Make them look

Want to guarantee attention? Go beyond static visuals with your signage and displays. Motion and even sound can be used to ensure impulse items can’t be ignored.

In one memorable instance for Old Spice, we created blade signage equipped with motion sensors. When shoppers walked past, the brand’s iconic 10-note whistle played.

A gorgeous visual display will transform an end cap from interesting to irresistible.”
Look at it from all angles

When it comes to optimizing your impulse strategy with your visual signage and communications, the sky is pretty much the limit. You’d be surprised by what an experienced and innovative partner can do with your budget. The right partner knows how to optimize every dollar spent with innovative, off-the-shelf ideas to help you maximize your customers’ shopping trips.

But just because you can fill your store with jaw-dropping impulse displays doesn’t mean you should.

First, if everything is screaming at the shopper for attention, it can be overwhelming and exhausting. Not every impulse buying opportunity needs the full spectacle — but it does still need to stand out.

This is where subtle activations, like an eye-catching color combination or a bold graphic treatment, can attract without overpowering.

Additionally, it’s important to consider logistics such as security when planning your impulse strategy. Make sure your visual communications, displays, and signage won’t interfere with security cameras, sprinkler systems, customer accessibility, emergency egress, or any other important operational areas.

Better intelligence, better impulse strategy

Customers might not put a lot of thought into their impulse purchases. That’s why it’s an impulse buy, after all.

But you can!

A great impulse strategy requires quite a lot of thought and planning. You want your visual communications, displays, and signage to act as irresistible lures, drawing shoppers toward items they weren’t planning on buying — but now realize they desperately need.


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