Impulsive Buying

Updated on April 11, 2024
Article byJyotsna Suthar
Edited byJyotsna Suthar
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Impulsive Buying Meaning

Impulsive buying, or impulsive purchase, is the behavior of customers buying unwanted products from the store due to certain factors. This impulse occurs due to different offers and discounts provided by either producer or retailer, tempting them to purchase them indirectly.

What is Impulsive Buying

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Customers’ impulsive buying behavior can drive the company’s sales figures. This is because it promotes the overall brand image of the product. Besides, it helps understand the customer’s needs and expectations for a particular product. However, impulsive buying behavior can also cause a rise in sales returns.

Key Takeaways

  • Impulsive buying, or impulse purchase, is a psychological response of the customers towards their shopping tendencies, where they tend to buy unwanted things from the shop.
  • It usually occurs when the retailer or the e-commerce sites provide huge discounts and offers on sale. As a result, customers are tempted to buy them.
  • Other factors influencing it include past experiences, emotions, store environment, and others.
  • Impulsive buying can be avoided by planning a budget, waiting 24 hours before buying, etc.

Impulsive Buying Explained

Impulsive buying refers to the attitude of the customer to buy unnecessary items due to impulsive behavior. It raises good expectations about the brand and associated products. In addition, it creates an additional demand for the products.

According to research, impulse buying accounts for 40-80% of purchases. The origin of impulsive buying theory dates back forty years. According to the DuPont Consumer Buying Habits Study conducted in 1945-1965, impulsive buying equals unplanned purchases plus stimulative response. As a result, customers often purchase items they never thought they would.

Later, in 1995, Professor Dennis W. Rook and American businessman Robert J. Fisher gave the impulsive buying scale. It comprises nine elements or questions with a five-point Likert scale. This Turkish impulsive buying scale stated that customers often act on impulse during purchases.

Impulsive buying theory is an emotionally driven behavior of customers towards products. Some variables here include self-control and emotions. Irresistible urges can always break a person’s self-control towards buying. Discounts and offers play a major role in stimulating these urges. For example, the Black Friday sale in 2022 recorded a shopping by 196.7 million customers due to impulsive shopping.

Likewise, marketers involve a game of emotions with customers. They are well aware of the psychological and behavioral patterns of a certain group of individuals. For example, a wager will always be an impulse to buy alcohol despite many attempts at self-control.

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There are four types of impulse buying based on the customers. They are pure, reminder, suggestive, and planned impulsive buying. When customers make pure impulse purchases, their normal consumption patterns are disrupted. Similarly, reminder impulse occurs when a particular product reminds customers they should buy it. Suggestive buying tries to convince customers to try this product at its first look. And lastly, planned impulsive buying is when customers already plan to buy something but await its offers.


Let us look at the factors that influence the online impulsive buying behavior of individuals:

#1 – Peer Pressure Or Emotional Response

Peer pressure plays a vital role in impulse purchases. Friend’s and family’s choices also influence impulse sales. When customers have a group to go with them to the stores, the preferences of others also decide their shopping list. As a result, impulsive buying occurs. For example, Mrs. A purchasing a dress might also pressure Mrs. B to buy the same.

#2 – Discounts, Offers, Or Sale

One and the most common factor for impulse buying is discounts kept on sale. Individuals tend to purchase items with an exclusive offer attached to them. Also, businesses tend to keep a sale for a limited period, enabling extensive demand for a short period. As a result, customers respond to this stimulus and get tempted to buy these items. It happens more on e-commerce sites and leads to impulsive online buying.

#3 – Past Experiences

Past experiences (good or bad) decide the impulse behavior of an individual. Customers who have a good experience will tend to buy it, despite its cost. Likewise, a bad instance can trigger the impulse and avoid them from shopping for it.

#4 – Store Environment

The most vital factor that influences impulse purchases is the store environment. If the store has a positive vibe with some background music, it can enhance the shopping experience. For example, if a store plays someone’s favorite genre or song, it can create a positive impulse toward the store. As a result, customers tend to buy more products.

#5 – Product Characteristics

Some products and brands create an impactful influence on customers. For example, potential customers can feel strongly attracted to some items due to their features like product quality, packaging, etc. Thus, customers are compelled to buy them. In addition, product replacement from the shelf or limited stock can also lead to impulse buying.


Let us look at an example of impulsive buying and how it works.

Example #1

Suppose Lorraine is into beauty apparel and face products. During the mid-November Black Friday sale, major e-commerce sites offered huge discounts. Lorraine was so irresistible to 50% sales on her favorite brands that she engaged herself in impulsive online buying. However, it had some drawbacks. After the delivery of the products, Lorraine realized that some were near expiry. There was no way she could utilize all those products before them getting expired.

Example #2

According to a 2022 report by Statista, 6 out of 10 women were impulsive in buying clothes and shoes. In contrast, less than 40% of the men were a part of online shopping. However, half of the respondents (men) were interested in electronics. This also poses the interesting dynamic of gender in impulse shopping.

How To Stop?

Let us look at the steps on how to stop or avoid impulsive buying:

  • First, plan a budget before shopping as it refrains the customers from putting unnecessary items in their carts.
  • Use the “Thumb” rule after adding items to the cart. As the rule states, wait for 24 hours before buying any item. It leads to efficient buying.
  • Calculate the savings made during the sale. Unfortunately, retailers often put fake discounts by displaying original high prices with sale prices to trick the customers. Therefore, customers should always compare items before buying.
  • Only shop for items that are necessary at the moment. Otherwise, it can pile up unwanted items.
  • Check for warranty, guarantee, and return policy. It will allow customers to have durable goods.
  • Reduce the damage by reading reviews and choosing the right product.

Impulsive Buying vs Compulsive Buying

Although both impulsive buying and compulsive buying are psychological compulsions to shop more, they have a huge difference between them. Let us look at them:

BasisImpulsive BuyingCompulsive Buying
Meaning A psychological behavior of the customers to buy unwanted items without having a demand for them. Compulsive buying is an uncontrollable urge of the customers to buy due to negative events or anxiety. 
Reason  It occurs due to different offers and discounts put on sale.It happens due to shopping addiction, as customers cannot resist shopping. 
Occurrence At occasional events.It occurs daily.
Shopping It is usually unplanned by the audience.  Customers here already plan their shopping. 
Factors influence More driven by external factors like shopping experience, offers, etc.Emotionally driven experience

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the advantages and disadvantages of impulsive buying?

An impulse purchase is a vital element in the company’s business strategies. It drives an additional demand for the products. It also increases the number of visitors to the store, helping its popularity. In addition, it promotes the new products of the company. However, it can lead to unnecessary items in the cart. Also, there can be defective products put on sale.

Which age group is most likely to engage in impulsive buying?

Younger age groups ranging from 18-24 are most likely to buy impulsively, followed by millennials. However, researches show that gender-wise, women tend to buy more items due to impulsive behavior.

What are the emotional effects of impulse buying?

Impulsive buying can have both positive and negative impacts on an individual. For example, before buying or while entering the store, individuals often seem to be happy. Also, the shopping experience itself is more enhanced and might seem rewarding. However, if a person runs out of budget or oversees a defective piece, it can have a negative effect that leads to anxiety.

This article has been a guide to Impulsive Buying and its meaning. Here we explain how to stop it, its factors, examples, and a comparison with compulsive buying. You may also find some useful articles here –

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