Impulse buying: the importance of the customer journey and how content marketing can help
Has someone misunderstood something? An impulse purchase (also known as an impulse buy) doesn't have a customer journey. Or maybe it does? Let's get to the bottom of it.
What is an impulse buy (impulse purchase)?
A large proportion of the purchases we make when shopping arise spontaneously - as opposed to planned purchases. This is true both online and offline. Statements about the percentage vary. Studies show that about 40% of consumer purchases are spontaneous. These can be purchases where we simply want to try something new. Or things we already have a need for, but simply hadn't thought to schedule the purchase now. Or even things we'd thought about before, but hadn't planned on buying yet. Until we saw a great offer. A mega discount. A great combination to something we already have. A last chance to get the product as it is being discontinued.
When I talk about products, I also mean services. A hairdresser can motivate a customer to spontaneously buy a tint, even though all she really wanted was a new cut. A doctor can encourage a patient to have an additional preventive checkup (at private expense) that he had never thought of before. Or in combination: the cell phone repair shop can spontaneously sell the customer a cell phone cover so that the display doesn't break again.
In B2B, the situation is different. Here, purchases are generally made in a planned manner. Last but not least, several people often make decisions together, which makes spontaneous decisions impossible.
In psychology, there are a number of approaches to defining impulse buying. Marvin Zuckerman, for example, developed the term "sensation seeking" in this context. "Sensation seeking" is closely related to positive emotions, such as joy or the good feeling that follows a new, positive experience.
Hawkins star explained four types of impulse buying as early as 1962:
- The pure impulse buy : He describes this type of impulse buying as relatively rare, spontaneous, and emotionally driven.
- The impulse buy driven by memoryThis describes the purchase of a product after it has been discovered in the store. The consumer remembers that the same product has (almost) run out at home. Furthermore, it is possible that the consumer remembers previously perceived advertising. It is important for this purchase that the actual purchase decision was already made before.
- The suggestive impulse buy: This purchase occurs when the consumer discovers a completely new product and feels a need for it at that moment. The consumer had no information about the product beforehand.
- The planned impulse purchase: This buying action is described as one in which the consumer enters the shopping place with the plan to buy certain products, but with the expectation and intention to also buy other products spontaneously when it occurs to him. This is planned spontaneity.
What are typical examples and industries for impulse buys?
There are a number of industries where a particularly high percentage of purchases are impulsive. These include:
- Food and beverage (food industry)
What do these products have in common? As a rule, they are low-priced products that usually cost up to a maximum of 99 euros. They are often products that have a large potential target group. Whether it's a yogurt with a new taste, the sneakers in the latest style, the guidebook at number 1 on the Spiegel bestseller list or a beautiful candle - all products for which we actually have no acute need. Nevertheless, it can happen that we spontaneously make a purchase.
What influences impulse buying?
Everyone knows the methods in the supermarket to stimulate spontaneous purchases. Products are placed at eye level. Products, especially sweets, entice customers to make impulse purchases at the checkout. We know something similar from the furniture store. In the case of clothing, it's more the (supposedly) big discounts (50/60/80%).
Online, many of these tools have been adopted, for example in the payment section in the online store. Here, of course, personalized, dynamic offers are possible, such as "Shoppers who bought ... are also interested in ...".
Even in B2B, a good salesperson in a personal conversation can motivate an impulse purchase. This may not apply to the corporate buyer, who has to deal with a long process behind almost every order. But if you think about purchasing for a small store, a restaurant, or a startup, for example, it becomes clear that orders here are not much different than in B2C. And can be influenced in the same way.
The two types of buyer in impulse buying mentioned above are exciting: "The memory-driven impulse buy" and "The planned impulse buy". Even if the four types cannot be strictly distinguished from each other, it can be assumed that these two types of impulse buying account for a large proportion. As described by Stern, there is the possibility here to stimulate the buyer through "previously perceived advertising". I'll take a look at how this can be done online below.
Which phases of the customer journey influence an impulse purchase?
Basically, we distinguish between the Cold, Warm and Hot phases in the customer journey. In the cold phase, the user only knows that he has a need, but not yet how to solve it. In the warm phase, the user knows the products or services, but has not yet decided on a provider. And finally, in the hot phase, they know the product and are only weighing up the arguments for and against it.
Some impulse purchases are driven by a memory. When making an impulse purchase, the user remembers a piece of information or a feeling that reached him about the product at an early stage of his customer journey. He may have been looking for the latest fashion trends. Or he may have found out which books are hot at the moment.
In a planned impulse purchase, the user has the goal of buying a specific product, for example, a black T-shirt. However, he is open to a matching spontaneous purchase. Here, the user can be influenced both in advance with general information about possible combinations and during the purchase itself (in the hot phase of the customer journey).
How can you use content marketing to encourage customers to make impulse purchases?
For suppliers of all the above-mentioned industries, there is enormous potential online to influence buyers to purchase their products with the right content. This applies equally to the cheese producer, the T-shirt brand, the book publisher or the furniture manufacturer.
What's exciting here is the realization that this doesn't just apply to planned purchases. Rather, as explained earlier, it also applies to impulse purchases in the store. At Purchases controlled by memory, the buyer in the store or supermarket thinks of the information that he has previously seen on a website. Let's think about the search for the current modern sneakers. Here he has found on the website of XY the pictures of the celebrities who define the latest style. When he sees the matching products, he spontaneously buys what he had seen online before. The same applies to the book about which he has already read an exciting interview with the author in advance. Or the olive brand that he came across through an interesting recipe and then read an exciting story about its cultivation in Greece.
We see: There are a number of ways to use good content to encourage customers to make an impulse purchase. The prerequisite is that the customer finds this information at an early stage of his customer journey. For providers, this means that they have to be found in Google with generic content from their brand world. The way to do this is high quality content in combination with SEO.
At planned impulse purchase the focus is on attractive content in the online store. Here, many providers give away an enormous amount. The purely technical ads of related products are only the compulsory program here. The free program is editorially prepared combination offers. What fits together, why, for whom and what does the user get out of it? This is difficult to implement for seasonal offers. But for all products that are in the assortment for a longer period of time, it is worthwhile to think about which other products they can be combined with. The more attractively this is presented, the higher the chance of selling the supplementary products and thus significantly increasing the average shopping cart value.
Another brief detour into B2B: Many manufacturers nowadays no longer just sell products and services. It is much more a matter of presenting solutions. Here in particular, it is of elementary importance to show the prospective customer for a certain product in an attractive form why the combination of this product with a suitable service is the perfect solution for him. Here, too, there is enormous potential for increasing the value added for each individual customer.
It's worth thinking about what content can be used to influence customers in such a way that they spontaneously reach for the product desired by the supplier the next time they make a purchase. We will be happy to advise you and, if necessary, help you with the complete implementation on your website and in the online store.