To Promote Unplanned Purchases, Optimize for Mobile and Optimize Your Packaging

There’s no way around it: shoppers do a lot of impulse buying. Recent research confirms that even in a sluggish economy, U.S. shoppers persist in making impulse purchases – thanks especially to smartphones for those on-the-go and sale/promotion messaging for those in-store.

A 2012 PayPal/comScore study found that the most recent purchase was an impulse buy for 52 percent of smartphone shoppers. And among impulse buyers, 61 said they’d increased their smartphone purchases, compared to 40 percent of non-impulse buyers.

And here’s a fact that should encourage marketers in the growing social/mobile/location-based marketing field: non-impulse buyers make 70 percent of their mobile purchases from home, compared to 42 percent for impulse buyers. In other words, most impulse buyers are making their smartphone purchases from a combination of work, in public, in a store or when commuting, often at two to three times the percentage of non-impulse buyers.

And what are the in-store trends? It’s interesting to combine a few key data points. A recent Point of Purchase Advertising International (POPAI) study shows that the decision on 76 percent of in-store purchases are made right in the store – not before. This figure is a record for POPAI’s studies, dating to 1965.

This 76 percent figure is made up of 55 percent unplanned purchases, 15 percent  “generally planned” and 6 percent that represented brand-switches. And while the overall in-store-decision figure was a POPAI record, the unplanned proportion of 55 percent is roughly in the middle of the results POPAI has curried for decades. For instance, it was 49.9 percent in 1965 and 60 percent in 1995.

It’s safe to say that in-store smartphone research is empowering shoppers to feel comfortable buying something different than planned – or entirely unplanned. But it’s also likely that the steadily increasing quality and sophistication of packaging is helping. According to the 2012 Shopper Engagement Study, shoppers base 76 percent of their supermarket purchase choices on attractive packaging and appearance.

Today’s moral? To encourage unplanned purchases of your product today, optimize both the high-tech and the traditional: the smartphone experience and the tangible, visible package.