The Rise of Impulse Shopping in the eCommerce World

Filed Under: Shopper, Ecommerce, Retail


Joanna Tai

Senior Project Manager, Qualitative Field Services

Increase in eCommerce shoppers

It seems like everywhere you look, delivery trucks are dropping off boxes of recently purchased treasures. And, why wouldn’t that be the case – given that online shopping has never been easier? According to the U.S. Census, eCommerce sales in Q1 2019 accounted for approximately 10% of total sales. With the convenience of online shopping and smart devices, you don’t even have to leave the comforts of your home to shop. Or, when you do, you can shop on the go – for example, commuting on public transportation (guilty!). And, without the confinement of store hours, coupled with 1-2 day delivery (in some cases within hours), online shopping has never been so tempting.

The Online Shopping Journey

With the increase in online shopping comes the rise of impulse purchasing.  Impulse, spur of the moment, purchases can top thousands of dollars a year. (That’s a mortgage payment, or better yet – a vacation!).  And now, with online shopping being so quick and convenient, these moments of spontaneity and buying items you really don’t need (or budget for) creates an even greater opportunity to spend. Due to the saved payment and delivery information, all you need is a few clicks of your mouse or a few taps of the finger and whoosh – your item(s) are on their way!   

With the ease of online shopping and retailer tactics to get those items into your shopping cart, it is no wonder that online impulse shopping is gaining such momentum. Like brick and mortar retailers, online retailers rely on discounts and BOGO free offers to entice you to buy the item, even if you may not need it.  Afterall, you might need that dress for a future occasion (guilty again!).  

Another incentive is to offer free or discounted shipping.  However, this is typically only offered if the shopper spends a certain number of dollars, enticing people to spend more than they planned. When you are just a few dollars short of free shipping, it is easy to justify adding one more item to your cart. Why not get those earrings that would go perfectly with the dress I will wear in the future?
Online strategies also include creating a sense of urgency for the buyer. Features such as “limited time offer,” “only 3 left,” and “5 people are looking at this same item” are all geared to increase a buyer’s sense of urgency for fear of missing out (unfortunately, this one has gotten me too).  

online retail market segmentation

Other strategies include targeted advertising and suggestions for various segments (“people who bought this, also bought this” or “you may also like this”). Brick and mortar retailers cannot control who comes into their store, but online retailers can control to whom they advertise/offer suggestions. Online retailers and digital companies have a disturbing amount of access to our personal information – including internet searches, browsing behavior, and past purchases. How many times have you searched for something online only to find advertisements for that item on your Facebook account, or in a banner ad the next time you search for something online?

Moral of the story…. while I/we know the tactics that retailers use to open our wallets (or open them a bit wider), they still get me (and maybe you) every time! 

C+R provides research into shopping insights. Click here to learn more.

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