Are mobile apps the key to driving in-store impulse sales?
Not so surprisingly, a university study finds impulse shopping notably increases the longer a customer is in a store. A newsier revelation is that mobile apps may be the way to drive many unplanned purchases.
The authors claim this is the first study to examine changes in impulse shopping as the shopping trip unfolds. About 400 customers carrying handheld scanners at two grocery stores were examined.
Results showed planned budgets caused consumers to behave in two different ways:
- Shoppers with small budgets (less than $64) behaved consistent with so-called "self-regulation theory": an unplanned purchase decreased the probability that the next purchase would be unplanned. However, as the shopping trip progressed, the opposite became true.
- Medium-budget shoppers (between $64 and $109) reflected a "cuing theory": an unplanned purchase increased the probability that the next item would be unplanned, and the probability only increased during the trip.
The findings suggest that retailers might consider offering unplanned suggestions later in the shopping trip, such as via in-store sampling or other in-store promotions. But the authors particularly highlight how mobile-apps could trigger unplanned purchases.
Tapping past data around planned and unplanned individual purchases as well as a shopper’s in-store proximity, apps can keep track of shopping and allow the retailer to make targeted suggestions. Shoppers are also often found to be highly receptive to offers for a "fun" unplanned item following several purchases of planned "less fun" items, such as providing a coupon for ice cream after a shopper has picked up some milk.
Still, University of Notre Dame marketing researcher Timothy Gilbride believes retailers will have to decide whether they want to "play the long game" and use shopper information and emerging technology to enhance the overall shopping experience. Retailers might try to help consumers to stay on their budgets while still suggesting unplanned items or simply trying to encourage them to maximize the total number of purchases on any given trip.
He believes retailers are seeking to build relationships that are "more than just transactional" in nature with the help of shopper data.
"They recognize that consumers could potentially have a relationship with the store for as long as they live in their current houses," Prof. Gilbride told National Association of Chain Drug Stores. "This will prompt the retailer to ask, ‘What can I do to make your shopping experience better over the long-term, as opposed to just this one shot?’"
- Unplanned purchases: Why does that Snickers bar looks better the longer you shop? – America Marketing Association
- The Role of Within-Trip Dynamics in Unplanned Versus Planned Purchase Behavior – Journal of Marketing
- Time on retailers’ side: Impulse purchases rise the longer shoppers are in store – University of Notre Dame
- What Makes Shoppers Buy Items That Aren’t On The List? – NACDS
Do you see mobile apps evolving into the preferred way to drive in-store impulse purchases, other than via the checkout aisle? What are the risks around making mobile messaging pitches to shoppers while in aisles?