an online grocery platforms capture the lightning in a bottle that is the impulse buy? While the pivot to online cart filling has given retailers new opportunities for capturing customers, the change doesn't come without some lost opportunities. Retailers are losing that all-important trek through the aisles that offers customers opportunities to pick up items that weren't on their grocery lists. Customers are also missing out on the grand finale of impulse buys that occurs at the racks of mints and magazines at the checkout counter. Impulse purchasing is down 30% in some categories.
Impulse purchases are more likely to involve items that are symbolic of a preferred or ideal self as well as products that offer high identity-expressive potential, to compensate for the buyer’s own identity deficit," according to a 2019 study.
The good news is that some indicators show that impulse spending was up 14% in 2022. What's more, 52% of shoppers say they're doing their impulse shopping equally between in-store and online shopping. While the shift to online shopping has mostly been a win for most retailers, grocery and food retailers take a specific hit due to the fact that most shoppers who enter grocery and convenience stores are in highly suggestible states due to being slightly hungry. This is often lost when customers shop for groceries from their own kitchens.
How can retailers fill in the gaps left by a lack of in-store interaction? The new goal is to inspire an updated form of impulse buying. Of course, this can't be done in a virtual space without introducing new systems for impulse buying.
While recreating the tactile urges of a checkout line littered with candy is hard to do online, retailers can still put irresistible offers "in the faces" of customers. One of the ways they can do this is by offering deals as customers shop online. What's more, retailers can use dynamic systems to suggest the right deals at the right times. An example would be a box that pops up to offer a deal on a liter of soda after a customer adds chips and popcorn to their cart. This taps into the idea that a customer is likely grabbing snacks for a movie night at home. The suggestion to add the soda taps into the same mentality that inspires in-store impulse buys. It's important that the customer needs to either "decline" or "accept" the offer to inspire interaction with the offer instead of simply making it another piece of noise on the shopper's screen. When retailers add a "deal" to the impulsive suggestion, they are increasing the odds of converting the customer because they are also creating a sense of urgency regarding a limited-time deal.
Online retailers can also consider offering bundles that provide shopping shortcuts. Is a customer shopping for burgers and hotdogs? The system should recommend a built-in bundle that includes burgers, hotdogs, buns, pickles, chips, ketchup, cold salads, and all of the other essentials for a cookout. The beauty of this bundle is that it features extras that the customer would not have added to their own cart without the suggestion. This is a great way to move more products while offering customers a sense of convenience. What's more, they may "fall in love" with a particular chip, pickle, or side dish that will spark repeat sales.
Many people do their food shopping online while in a mode of "checking off boxes" from their to-do lists. They are in a state of high motivation. Retailers can tap into this by making product recommendations that reflect the type of week the shopper intends to have while in this emotional state. Healthy foods, supplements, fresh flowers, a new water bottle for hydration, and other "positive" items can be attractive for shoppers in an optimistic mode.
Technology won't steal the impulse buy from retailers. In fact, it may actually help to entrench the impulse buy even deeper into the shopper psyche. The challenge for retailers is thinking outside the checkout aisle to capture shoppers "in the moment" regardless of where they're shopping from. Yes, this means using dynamic technology to suggest the right products at the right times. However, retailers also need to make in-store adjustments using new technology platforms to stimulate impulse shopping among shoppers with burnt-out receptors. Designing the shopping experience for impulse buys isn't about tricking customers. It's about creating the right shortcuts to help customers find the products they didn't know they wanted!