Impluse Buying Is Not Smart Shopping; Thus, Driving Customers To Buy On Impulse Is Poor Marketing

Shopper marketing is serious business. Unfortunately, it can also be devious and manipulative.

According to The Wall Street Journal, retailers invent shopping seasons to drive traffic to the store and increase ticket size per shopper.

A key goal of these seasonal pitches is to get people to buy impulsively, something they do less of these days. The number of impulse purchases fell to 15% of purchases in 2010, from 29% in 2008.

Here’s a bit more from the Journal:

The true art of the seasonal display is to trick out products that don’t seem like obvious impulse buys—like vacuum cleaners or tissue boxes—in a way that makes shoppers grab first and think later. People are usually willing to spend more during special seasons, retailers and manufacturers say, especially if they are spending on their children.

“Trick,” being the key word above. These “grab first and think later” approaches to retail seasonality and merchandise displays are not customer-centric, nor transparent. And given the sorry state of the economy, they’re not well timed.

I know stores like Target and Wal-Mart spend millions of hundreds of dollars every year fine-tuning their end-aisle displays, free standing inserts, promotional offers, etc. The managers who makes these decisions are doing so to maximize profits for shareholders, but where’s the responsibility to customers here?

It’s wishful thinking, but I’d love to see a retailer provide incentives to customers who buy only what they need. I don’t know what that program would look like, or how it might work, but I’d be happy to explore it further and come up with some ideas.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Dear David,

    You are bang on the nail’s head. We have seen gullible customers buying on impulse and regretting later. This seduction some times leads to credit card default disease essentially in impulse buying what you dont need or buying what you cant actually afford. We tried to answer this with a framework  which helps people know the lowest price of product they exactly need. Try for city of Pune India. We are willing to take this movement to every part of the globe .  Your feedback suggestions welcome

  2. Marketing with a conscience. Bravo, sir! Maybe there is hope for our industry.