With anytime/anywhere shopping, one-click checkout and limitless selections, the web is flooded with articles warning about the dangers of impulse buys online. But a few recent studies have found that physical stores still do a better job inspiring customers to spend more money than planned.
According to a new study from A.T. Kearney, about 40 percent of survey respondents reported spending more money than planned in retail stores, while only 25 percent reporting doing so when shopping online.
"This is in part because stores are more likely destinations for what we call 'occasion trips,' or time spent browsing, window shopping, treasure hunting, or making impulse purchases," A.T. Kearney researchers wrote in the report. "Online shopping, in contrast, is more likely to involve 'mission trips' for those on a mission to find specific products or services at the lowest possible price."
The omnichannel study was based on a survey of more than 3,000 consumers in the U.S. and U.K.
A study from LivePerson released in January similarly found 77 percent of shoppers across five Western markets at least sometimes make impulse purchases in-store, compared to half who do so online. The study did find younger adults (aged 18-34) slightly more likely than the average respondent to make impulse purchases online.
Still, defining unplanned purchases appears easier when heading to a store with a shopping list. Other studies over the last decade have estimated that as much as 40 percent of the money spent on e-commerce sites represents impulse buys. Without the burden of driving to the mall, finding the product in aisles and checking out, online buys are said to avoid the "mid-purchase pause" that derails in-store impulse purchases.
Moreover, a survey from Rackspace Hosting, the open cloud company, last fall indicated that nearly half (48 percent) of U.K. adults who use smartphones or tablets to make purchases online admit to buying items on impulse more frequently now by using their mobile devices. A survey from Ryan Partnership, also released last fall, indicated 22 percent of those who follow retailers through social media report having been influenced to make an unplanned purchase.
Perhaps the clearest indicator that online impulses are rampant are the scores of web articles and blogs offering advice on how to avoid the temptation. Common advice includes not saving credit card information, unsubscribing from newsletters, disabling "one-click buy" options, clearing browsing history/ cookies, and doing more research.
Which channel is more influenced by 'mission trips' versus discovery?