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Psychology of Impulse Shopping

Snehal Motkar Apr 29, 2019
What could be the psychology behind impulse shopping? Have you ever given it a thought? Well, let's find out what could be the factors responsible for making people shop impulsively.
When you are caught in a situation where you don't think much before buying a product, it is impulse shopping. It is an unplanned decision to purchase a product or buy a service. The decision is made just a few minutes before buying the product. In this situation, you don't bother about the need of that item.
It is the view or smell (in case of food items) of the product that attracts you and makes you buy it. But do you think appearance, smell or overall atmosphere in the store is an accident? Of course not! It's deliberate and well planned by the shopkeeper to tempt you.
Mostly, items like candies, chocolates, chewing gums and even showpieces are displayed on the counters where people notice it and tend to purchase it without thinking whether it is needed or not.

Role of Psychological Factors

As individuals, we all vary in our ways of shopping. But psychological factors that govern impulsive shopping behavior are common to all. Following are some important elements that are involved in impulse shopping:
Emotions: Feeling of pleasure and excitement, lack of control over impulses, etc., are some of the emotions associated with impulse shopping. Retailers target these emotions and raise their product sale.
Children are the most targeted consumers in this area because they are the ones who easily get attracted to anything and develop a liking for it instantly. People even shop to fight insecurity so that they can keep up their self-identity. More and more of shopping gives them a feeling of completeness.
Addiction: Everyone shops to some extent but, it is found that about 6 to 7% of the U.S. population have shopping addiction. Shopping addiction, often referred to as compulsive shopping, is normally a socially encouraged behavior.
We have a lot of advertisements around telling us to buy things which will make us happy. And we also want everything that others have. These things further encourage people to shop so that they have all the latest stuff with them, thus turning them into shopping addicts.
Stress: When people feel low and depressed, they go shopping to overcome these problems. They shop excessively to cope up with stress, but fail to understand that shopping won't help cure it, it will only suppress the frustration and depression for a while.
They don't realize that it will relieve work stress (if they have) and change their mood only for a few moments, but not permanently. You often experience that you buy a product, and feel happy at that point.
But when you reach home the happiness gets replaced with guilt and regret and you say, "I should not have bought this." This clearly shows that you have made an impulsive purchase.
What is the difference between normal shopping and shopping addiction? Well, normal shopping is occasional expenditure made to buy most necessary products whereas, shopping addicts shop excessively to relieve or fight stress, but don't realize that it affects other areas of their life severely.
Financial condition and relationships are two major areas affected by shopping addiction. It has become a debatable issue among the experts whether to consider impulse shopping as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or impulse control disorder, mood disorder (such as depression) or addiction.

Retailers Role

Retailers also contribute a great deal in stimulating customers to shop impulsively. They follow one thing very seriously and that is, to know and understand their customers. They are so good at persuading their customers that one doesn't realize how and when the purchases were made.
Questions like, "What and how consumers think when they shop?", "How much they want to spend?", all such questions related to the psychology of the buyer are analyzed by retailers. They are in a way able to grasp whatever is happening in customer's mind.
On the basis of analysis, a plan is devised, which makes consumer follow retailer's command of buying the products. Various tools used by retailers to attract customers are price cards, signs, banners, special racks, announcements, special displays, etc. A study has pointed out that at least 4 to 5% of the overall sales are the outcome of special displays.
They use the displays to tempt or attract people and keep reminding them and stimulate their impulses to buy a product. Many times, certain images or other audio-visual aids are utilized that induces a buyer's impulses and he/she purchases it regardless of the quality and usefulness of the product.
A person might be a fan of an actor or a sports personality and one of the products have his/her image on the cover; this tempts the buyer to purchase the product without even thinking about its utility for him/her.

Psychology of Online Impulse Shopping

Why does one shop online? In the first place, it is extremely convenient and easy to use and secondly, online shopping stimulates a person's impulses to buy anything, just as it happens in a store. A renowned company, Shop Text in New York allows people to shop just by text messaging. 
It is found that old people are frequent shoppers on the web, the reasons being boredom, loneliness and money in abundance. They have nothing to do and no one to talk to. So they call up and shop for anything they look at.
But you and me might be wondering as to what are the products they shop for? And it may come as a surprise to you that most purchases made by them are neither essential nor useful.


Once in a while, you can be lucky to have a useful product that you bought on an impulse. But, most of the time, you regret your decision of buying a product following your impulse. Here are a few facts that alarm you about the drawbacks of shopping impulsively:
  • Waste of money is the most obvious and an important drawback of such shopping. As it is an unplanned shopping, you lose control over your budget.
  • It can lead to disruption of normal way of shopping, wherein you examine the product for its quality and design. In normal shopping, you even have scope to bargain in order to satisfy yourself and your pocket while in impulse shopping, you don't pay attention to your pocket.
  • It gradually destroys your rational thinking and reasoning capabilities while shopping. You tend to believe anyone very easily and this keeps repeating every time you shop.
  • Impulse buying is all about visual appeal. Many people don't know what they want until they see what is there on the market. For them, seeing is buying. This results in shopping of unnecessary items. For example, there is already a soap case in the house but you find an attractive one and buy it.

Tips to Avoid Impulse Shopping

  • Plan your shopping budget and try not to exceed that amount.
  • Make a list of the (essential) items that you need to buy according to your budget, plan and stick to them.
  • Do not get tempted by special displays at the counter.
  • Avoid taking children along because they insist on buying unnecessary stuff.
From the given information, you must have realized that impulse shopping can do no good to anyone, rather, it can ruin your well-organized life structure. Do not allow your impulses to rise above your reasoning, and try to make each purchase a purposeful one.