New research suggests that the way companies market impulse buys needs to be re-thought. "As consumers progress through the shopping trip, or browsing a website, and as they go through more and more choices, they are likely to behave less and less impulsively," says Paul Dholakia, a management professor at Rice University. Here's the breakdown.
Time to Shop
Retailers have long thought that shoppers are less impulsive when they enter a store, and become more impulsive the longer they shop.
In one experiment, researchers asked two groups of consumers to weigh various impulse buys. Members of Group A were offered an alluring product, like a great sweater, and asked to rate their interest.
Having Shopped for a While
Group B was offered the sweater and, later, another impulse buy. In this test, 73 percent were less interested in that second item, whether or not they liked the sweater initially.
Though a consumer's "natural tendency to behave impulsively has dwindled" as she gets ready to pay, a retailer can rekindle a shopper's interest through clever signage and other promotions.
Last Chance to Buy Something
One caveat: The loss of self-control is different from impulse buying, Dholakia says. So wavering dieters, and not the occasional snacker, would buy candy at the supermarket checkout.