Commentary

Impulse Vs. Considered Purchase Strategy

Much of Internet marketing is intended to sell products.  As a matter of fact, I think I can safely make the case that all Internet marketing is, in one way or another, about selling products.  What's most interesting are the differences between selling products that are primarily impulse buys vs. those that are considered purchases, and the implications that can have on your chosen marketing strategy.

Consumers make an impulse buy typically out of desire, not need. Such products are generally not a crucial component of a consumer's life, but something that can make things easier or more enjoyable.  They're also typically lower cost items, where the impact on the consumer's bank account is minimal (but this factor depends, of course, on the size of the consumer's bank account in the first place).  A considered purchase is higher on the hierarchy of needs, and tends to be more of a necessity.  A considered purchase requires research, analysis -- typically a larger investment of both time and money.  

In both cases the marketer is trying to drive engagement, but the depth of engagement is deeper on a considered purchase.  For an impulse buy, the engagement is intended to push the consumer to a purchase page as quickly as possible.  This can be done through the development of remote storefronts, affiliate marketing and banners distributed into contextually relevant environments where the user is in a similar mindset, and may already be thinking of making a purchase.  Rich media works very well in these kinds of instances, driving immediate interaction and sales.

In the case of a considered purchase, you are more than likely looking at creating a higher touch engagement, with as many as 20 different points of interaction along the path to a sale -- and not all of these interaction points will be ones that you can control.  Also, a considered purchase almost inevitably requires online and offline activity to generate a sale, so the marketing must be more deeply integrated.  Many brand marketers fit into this category because they recognize that the power of a brand lies in the positive associations and deeper value of the brand they're building.  They may be part of a cluttered category or a high priced category, and the brand value is what lends them credibility and puts them over the top, driving the sale.  Mini-sites, remote content syndication and more integrated solutions tend to work very well for considered purchases, where the goal is information more than immediate clicks.

Search is crucial to both the impulse and considered buys.  In the case of the impulse, the messaging needs to be focused on "buy now," and the targeting is far more tactically placed, meaning the terms that are purchased are going to be very action-oriented and deep.  This translates to a high volume of terms, many of which are phrases, and the top position may not always be necessary. The goal of search for impulse buys is reach: as many people, in the mindset to buy, as possible.  In the case of a considered purchase, marketers will likely focus their terms more tightly, aligning with research and information gathering for the consumer, with the message more focused on educating the consumer and differentiating the brand. 

Display is also not to be overlooked, with technology playing a very key role.  Behavioral targeting is extremely important for both, and the recency factor that can be integrated into the targeting is where the differentiation occurs.  An impulse buy is going to deliver a message as close to the search and decision-making points as possible, whereas a more considered purchase needs to be introduced and engaged with throughout the entire process, ensuring that the brand is always staying top of mind during the consumer's path to a purchase.

In both cases, measurement and understanding the decision-making path for the consumer is of the utmost importance.  Before you launch a campaign, you need to understand the strategy that will work best for you and measure your tactical efforts consistently throughout.  If you do your homework in advance and lay out the correct tactical plan, you should be able to achieve your objectives.

How are you differentiating your campaigns based on these goals?

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