Recreating The Impulse Buy Online

Remember the days of traditional grocery shopping, when you waited 20 minutes in line to check out and entertained yourself by reading tabloid magazines and adding sweet, unneeded — but totally appetizing —  treats to your cart?

The increase of online grocery shopping has led to a decline in traditional grocery store checkout aisle impulse buys, forcing brands to get creative and redefine impulse buying for a digital world. 

All is not lost, for a recent Nielsen  study found that consumers make more online impulse buys in the grocery, household care, snack and personal care categories compared to brick-and-mortar stores. 

How do products like snack chips, beverages, candy bars, gum, celebrity magazines and Chapstick stay relevant to online shoppers when the “impulse” won’t be immediately met? 

Give the consumer something for free. A great example of a modern-day impulse buy is ordering something online, falling a few dollars short of the coveted free shipping and throwing a random, inexpensive and completely unnecessary item in your cart to reach free shipping status.



Instead, what if a brand like Hershey’s or Reese’s offered to pay for a customer’s shipping if, for example, she added a candy bar or two to her order? Even a buy-one, get-one-free (BOGO) offer can be effective; as I wrote this piece, had a BOGO on Doritos.

Offer the customer exclusivity. In the past, consumers used to collect dishes and glassware when they made purchases from supermarkets and gas stations. Really. Google it. 

Currentize this notion by offering exclusive brand packaging or a special collector’s edition item with an online purchase. Better still, create a unique potato chip flavor that’s only available online and promote it on your brand’s social media pages to build attention and drive sales.

Turn an impulse buy into an everyday buy. Get your product on consumers’ shopping lists. Easier said than done, given a typical list contains items that are considered necessities, like cereal, milk, eggs, paper towels, sweets and snacks.

 But it’s not impossible. When a shopper adds a similar item to her cart or browses the item’s section, a coupon for a competing item can appear, offering money off her purchase if said item is added to her list. Once an item makes this list, chances are it will remain there and have a bigger chance of being repurchased. Changing an impulse buy to a regular shopping cart staple makes room for new products to become impulse buys.

Partner with meal kit services. Snack brands can team up with online meal kit providers to offer snack options. Since many meal kits lean in to clean, healthy, eating, this could be a notable option for a healthy snack brand to jump in and deliver the goods.

Visual recipes also entice online shoppers into adding additional items to their carts. It’s like going to the grocery store hungry except you’re home, hungry, and watching recipes come to life.

Go old school. When a consumer is ready to check out, what if she’s prompted to visit the “impulse buy” aisle that’s full of everything she would see if she was standing in a grocery store line?

Everything old is new again eventually, right?

1 comment about "Recreating The Impulse Buy Online".
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  1. Sherry Smith from Clarity PR, December 6, 2019 at 5:44 p.m.

    The website from which I buy my pet supplies does the old school route and it totally works. Basically, when I'm just about done checking out, they show me a handful of easily-added on, usually-discounted items like treats or single cans of food. I estimate they get about $3 extra from me on average per shopping trip. Not a ton, but it adds up for sure.

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