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The Future of Impulse Buying in an Uncertain Economy


Much of the world is currently going through an economic downturn, with challenges including high inflation, rising costs of living, and slow wage growth. 

As a result, many consumers are paying careful attention to what they spend and cutting back on unnecessary purchases. In fact, according to a June 2022 Ipsos survey, 56 percent of Americans have reduced the number of impulse food and beverage purchases they have made in recent times.

Does this mean the end of impulse buying? 

Fortunately, there are still ways in which brands can entice buyers, especially when they focus on retail marketing solutions and explore options that add value, such as discounts and special offers. 

In this article, we explore the future of impulse buys in uncertain times and explain how brands can cater for buyers who may be less willing to part with their money.

Understanding Impulse Buyers

An impulse purchase is generally considered to have occurred when a consumer makes a purchase without giving it much thought. Essentially, it is an unplanned or unexpected purchase, where the buying decision is made shortly before the purchase takes place. 

These purchases are often triggered by emotional responses to seeing a product.

According to an article published by Shopify, in normal times, 87 percent of Americans make impulse purchases. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 50 percent of food and grocery purchases, 35 per cent of household items purchases, and 43 percent of clothing purchases were made in this way. 

In the aftermath of the pandemic, impulse purchases of cleaning products also increased, with examples including soap and hand sanitizer.

It stands to reason that impulse purchases are dependent on buyers having money available to them. During times of economic uncertainty, it makes sense that impulse purchases would decrease.

Strategies for Enticing Impulse Buyers

The future of impulse buying in an uncertain economy is largely going to depend on brands taking a strategic approach to enticing impulse buyers and encouraging spur-of-the-moment purchases. 

Below, we will explore some of the most important strategies that brands can turn to in order to achieve this:

1. Add Value With Promotions

While economic gloom can dissuade some impulse buys, many consumers are still willing to make these unplanned purchases if they feel there is great value on offer. For this reason, brands should come up with enticing promotions, which encourage customers to part with their hard-earned money at short notice.

Examples of promotions that can add value include ‘buy one, get one free’ offers, or discounts. 

A brand can invest in commercial print solutions to help highlight these promotions in physical stores. Consumers can often be persuaded to make an unplanned purchase if they feel the offer provides substantial savings and real value.

2. Create a Sense of Urgency

As an article for Startup Talky explains, the ‘urgency factor’ can also be invaluable in attracting impulse buys. One of the best ways to achieve this is through the creation of time-limited events, which encourage consumers to act quickly or risk missing out. This ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) can be an especially powerful driver of unplanned purchases.

The creation of a sense of urgency can be seen in examples like Black Friday sales, where consumers often browse stores and retail websites, seeking out great deals without any specific plan. When working with commercial printing company, you can highlight time-limited events and encourage your customers to act swiftly with custom retail marketing solutions.

3. Experiment With Item Placement

Often, buyers will only make an impulse purchase if they physically see a product and feel unable to resist it. This means that a significant part of the battle involves actually making sure your products can be seen by customers who may be visiting a store or browsing a website looking for something completely different.

Experiment with placing different products in different locations. 

For example, smaller items, which are relatively inexpensive, can often work well when placed close to the checkout. It is worth trying different items in these locations and tracking which products attract the most last-minute buys.

Maximizing Print Production Investment

Many of the strategies for attracting impulse buyers in an uncertain economy will require brands to invest in commercial print solutions. It is important to try to maximize investment in this area, however, and the best way to do this is to work with a high-quality commercial printing company, with a proven track record.

The best service providers will be able to offer everything from creative services to print, digital, and environmental design services. Working with reliable partners can help to provide consistency and clarity, helping to draw attention to promotional offers, time-limited events, and other tactics for attracting impulse buys.

Final Thoughts

Times of economic uncertainty are always likely to lead to a reduction in impulse buying, but it is essential that brands understand that there is still a future in attracting these unplanned or last-minute purchases. With high-quality commercial print services, intelligent item placement and the right strategic approach, you should be able to showcase specific products, highlight promotions that add value and create a sense of urgency among customers.

Author Bio

Ray Kaselau - Graphic Display Designer at Imagine

Ray Kaselau

Ray Kaselau is a Graphic Display Designer at Imagine. He works closely with brands to develop window displays, point-of-purchase displays, packaging, signage, and other custom retail marketing solutions to deliver the wow factor.


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