How to Drive Impulse Buys

rows of candy in store
Source: FreeImages


How can convenience retailers get customers to zero in on impulse purchases at the checkout, on a shelf or anywhere else in the store? One way is to know the psychology of impulse.

“We aren’t rational beings … especially with money,” said Brad Klontz, associate professor of economics and finance at Creighton University, Omaha, Neb., in a study recently conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, Princeton, N.J., for Researchers asked 1,003 U.S. adults about their impulse purchases.

The trick for retailers is triggering an emotional response. “[Retailers] don’t put Scientific American at the checkout for a reason,” Klontz said. “They place magazines like the National Enquirer and candy. Those things are more likely to make you feel emotions, like jealousy, curiosity and desire.”

Here are five ways to improve impulse buying in our stores …


1. Know the Consumers’ Motivation

Impulse buys are most often made to fulfill a selfish desire, with 47% of respondents making impulse purchases for themselves, the report says. It’s especially true for 18- to 29-year-olds, with 61% saying they made most impulse purchases for themselves.

Younger people are more apt to make an impulse purchase, with 20% of people 65 or older saying they’ve never made an impulse purchase vs. only 8% of people younger than 50. Thirty percent of respondents who make less than $30,000 a year said they have not made any impulse purchases in the past three months.


2. Bundle Health & Indulgence

In January 2015, West Des Moines, Iowa-based Kum & Go began enticing customers to purchase both better-for-you and traditional items when the chain of about 440 stores launched a “two-for” candy and snack promotion.

Customers could pick two healthy snacks, two indulgent treats or a mix of both. The program was a success, enough so that “we have made enhancements to the program based on the results of the original effort,” says Stephanie Poitry, category manager for Kum & Go.

The campaign works like this: If customers buy a traditional candy item, they can select a better-for-you or salty item in a “mix and match” setup. The chain found that customers who went with bars stuck to either healthy or indulgent. Buyers of salty snacks tended to grab one of each.

It works because consumers want to “have it both ways: an [indulgent] treat at one occasion and healthy one the next,” says Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice president and practice leader, client insights, for IRI, Chicago.

The program also allowed the chain to do something it otherwise wouldn’t: stock healthy items in the checkout space.


3. Size Up the Chocolate Opportunity

Which chocolate size has more impulsive upside? It depends on a retailer’s customer base.

Huck’s Convenience Stores, Carmi, Ill., sees many candy and snack trends occurring at once, and one involves increasing the footprint for chocolate king-size packages, thanks to input from Hershey’s category-management team. While king-size chocolate bars resonate best in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers, Randy Adams, center store category manager for the 116-store Huck’s chain, saw equal opportunity for c-stores.

A few years ago, the chain removed a 12-foot section of gum and mints and gave the space to king-size chocolate brands. While smaller sizes play better into immediate consumption, customers took an approach that while they’re paying more for king, they are also receiving more chocolate.

Other retailers have their own ideas about merchandising king-size candy. Single-store retailer Josh Lund, owner of Beaudry Express, Elk River, Minn., pairs king candy brands in a vertical configuration and all standard sizes in a similar vertical row.


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Article Credit(s): Stever Dyer, CSP Reporter