5 Factors that cause impulse buying

I engaged in a bit of impulse buying recently, and bought a Sony Blu Ray Player, that I totally didn’t need. I don’t regret it because I have been eyeing one for a long time, but I was thinking about what leads to impulse buying. I did a little research and found several interesting articles that discussed reasons that lead to impulse buying.

Here’s what I found:

1. Navigating through categories lead to impulse buying: I found this paper on e-Commerce that had a very interesting study on impulse buying and what causes it. The paper studied habits of consumers shopping online, and found that people browsing through products by clicking categories were more likely to buy something on impulse than people searching for stuff online. The rationale is that people navigating through categories get exposed to a much greater breadth of products than people looking for products through search.

2. Power Distance Belief (PDB): I found this research paper that discusses the concept of Power Distance Belief (PDB) and its impact on impulse buying. I am not sure if I fully agree with it, or even understand it, — but it’s a really interesting and novel take on the subject. Power –distance belief — is the degree of power disparity that the people of a culture expect and accept. Higher the PDB, the more a person expects and accepts disparity in power. Eastern cultures like China and India have a high PDB and western cultures like America have a low PDB. A low PDB results in greater impulse buying, and a high PDB results in lower impulse buying. The reason for that people is eastern cultures who expect more power disparity, are also brought up to practice self restraint much more than people in western cultures who don’t expect so much power disparity.

It is easier to digest the fact that people who have more self restraint are much more likely to avoid impulse buying than people who don’t have that level of self restraint. To stretch that concept to cultures and expect power disparity and such, — well that is something I am not too sure of, and will leave it to you.

3. Prosperity: I really don’t need research to tell me that prosperity leads to impulse buying. During the peak of the recession – impulse buying was not even something I thought about, let alone engage in. Now, that the situation has markedly improved, — a lot of people are engaging in it, including myself.

4. Shiny stuff causes impulse buys: According to this piece, things that are sparkly, noisy, jiggly, furry, fuzzy, or have any other feature that makes them draw attention will sell well on impulse. This makes sense too, because the more attention something draws, the more likely it is that you will think about it and end up buying it.

5. Price: This factor is the most talked about when it comes to impulse buying. A lot of people say that they indulged in impulse buying just because something was on a discount.  I am sure deals and discounts contribute to impulse buying, and when we see something priced much lower than what we are used, — that triggers a desire to get that thing and save money.

A large part of all purchases are attributed to impulse buying, this is undoubtedly good for retailers, but it’s not as good for consumers. I say that because a lot of my own impulse buys don’t end up getting used at all, and I regret spending any money on them.