MERCHANDISING – Impulse purchasing is more than a convenient placement of products

Have you ever gone into the grocery, hardware or drug store intending to pick up just one or two things, and somehow end up leaving about $50 lighter and 20 pounds heavier? Your full bag of unplanned purchases is proof positive of the power of impulse shopping. While you may fall prey to impulse in other stores, in your own retail business you should think of other people’s impulses as potential for your profit. And to harness this most natural of your customers’ resources, you must first understand the psychology of shopping.

People buy things for two reasons: They either buy to satisfy needs, or they buy for pleasure. In fact, most purchases are for pleasure, or emotional reasons, and these emotions are impulses. As proof of the influence of impulse purchasing, take a look around your own home and ask yourself why you bought each item. It is believed that about 80 percent of purchases are made to satisfy social standards.

To capitalize on these emotional purchases, you need to stimulate your customers’ impulses. Impulses are motivated by memories, and every- thing we see, hear, smell, touch or taste creates memories. Impulse purchases are triggered by sight, and can be influenced by pleasant odors and music as well. Every item in a store can be an impulse item, if it is placed in a convenient location in an eye-catching display. In retail, the right side is much stronger than the left, and people look on a 45-degree angle, so it is advised to place items so they can be seen full-face when we are walking.

As customers are guided through your business by its layout, items placed at eye level on an easy to see angle and on their right-hand side will attract the most impulse purchases. Putting complementary items together will help inspire impulse shopping as well. Logical and convenient merchandising will also appeal to people’s sense of order and neatness. People tend to organize their homes to at least some degree, such as storing the canned goods in one cupboard and all the coffee mugs in another. Also, don’t limit your thinking on impulse buying to the areas around the cash register, or end caps on aisles. Instead, consider your whole store to be an impulse buying area.

Take a look at your average grocery store to see an example of a retailer capitalizing on emotions in shopping. A great many studies have been conducted to determine where items should be placed in order to garner the most purchases. Grocery store merchandisers know whether to place toothbrushes next to toothpaste, and whether they sell better at eye level or below. They can tell you the percentage change in sales when flavours of soup are placed in alphabetical order, or when cereal is organized by type of flakes as opposed to brand name.

Grocery store chains wouldn’t spend much time and money on these studies if all their customers bought only the items on their shopping lists. Instead, retailers in the grocery industry realize that shoppers are ruled by their emotions, or impulses, and have put a lot of effort into discovering how these impulses work. There are many ways to capture a customer’s attention. But whatever promotional tools you use, be sure to focus on strong visuals that will attract the eye, and the impulses of your customers. Considering each area of your store to be an impulse buying area will give you a fresh way to maximize the effect of your merchandising.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2017 Issue of Office Today Magazine