Ooooh – Shiny!

Make a decision! Hurry! Hurry hurry hurry or… oops! Time’s up! Welcome to the land of the impulse buy, population: ever changing.

We as humans typically come complete with instincts (the jury’s still out on the likes of Tonya Harding and Fiona Apple). We’re born with an innate sense of understanding that the fanged critter that’s twice your size and chasing you probably doesn’t want to make friends. It’s this ‘fight or flight’ reaction that often saves our butts when our conscious brain is on a coffee break or swimming in the Tequila River.

And it’s this innate sense of urgency that is an integral part of impulse buy strategy. Marketing, at its core, is a concise manipulation of our emotions and feelings. From needing to feel ‘cool’ or ‘in’ by buying something, to calling something a ‘limited edition’ – even if it is bathroom air freshener (that’s a real example, by the way.) To be fair, EVERYTHING – from atoms to You – is a ‘limited edition’. But how often do we parse that far into things?

Here’s how the impulse buy works, in a nutshell:

You’re faced, at the last possible moment before leaving a retail establishment, with a cadre of choices. The items are typically small, reasonably priced, serve a function, or are just plain tactily or visually interesting. Our subconscious brain takes over, and begins running scenarios without our even necessarily realizing that it’s happening.

“Does my breath smell bad? Well, I did have that onion and limburger sandwich for lunch…”

“Ooooh! Shiny!”

“That looks squishy – I need to touch it!”

“You know, I need more beef jerky in my diet.”

“I’m thirsty, and I didn’t even realize it!”

“Are there really 101 ways to please my woman?”

I could go on (and, frankly, would like to because I’m amusing myself at the moment) but I won’t. You get the point. And the angst and fear is further preyed upon in these situations by ‘limiting’ the time you have to decide. Often (but not often enough for me, thank you) you’re in and out in a jiffy. So timing is everything. And you know what? More often than not, we allow ourselves to fall prey to this simple tactic. If you don’t believe me, then start paying more attention to your last few moments in the store for a while. Then come back and tell me I’m wrong. I’ll be here, waiting.

So, now that we’ve taken the first step – admitting there’s a ‘problem’ – how do we ‘solve’ it? We ‘solve’ it by allocating space in YOUR place of business for impulse items. Sounds simple, right? Not by a long shot. Your space is, most likely, limited. Which means that you need to squeeze every nickel you can out of every inch within your establishment. So you need to be fussy about what you choose to place in the impulse areas. Here are a few insights:

The weirder, the better: If I’ve never seen it, or it does something wacky or inane, I’m going to be curious. And – for some reason – I always want to buy whatever it is for someone I know, or for some stupid reason. As an example, I can tell you that, recently, a local vendor had a line of ‘limited’ owl cooking timers. I don’t need a cooking timer (I have one built into my stove that works just fine), I do like owls, but the colors would never have gone anywhere in my home décor. My first reaction? “I need one of those! Those are amazing!” I can’t even begin to explain the phenomena, and I’m still trying to fight the urge to go and buy one.

Colorspolosive and blingtastic: If it’s shiny, colorful, or – better still – an obnoxious combination of the two then, like a fishing lure on a sunny day, humans seem to be drawn to it. They want to touch it.

Serve a purpose: This one is a bit more boring, but not necessarily less profitable. If the item serves a purpose (and an immediate one is better) then it qualifies as a good impulse item.

People are people: They need to eat and drink. And, often, they’ll keep doing it even when they don’t actually need to. Fudge, candy, soda, and the like are all hard to resist. If you do go with a food item, I recommend finding an ‘accessory’ item that offers a commensurate smell: a candle, air freshener, etc. to get the brain in the mood for the item. In fact, the closer to the entrance you get this thought planted, the better off you’ll be come time to check out.

Useless Novelties: I really want to explain why something that does nothing more than sit there and be itself – serving no other function – sells. But, I can’t. They just do. Roll with it.

Even e-stores can offer impulse items: Just add the appropriate coding to the site, so that ‘random’ or ‘impulse’ items pop up right before check out is completed. Use buzzwords to make the buyer feel like a deal is being had (even if it’s not a SUPER deal) and make it pleasing to the eye, yet simple enough for the average brain to parse out.

In the end, you can change it up periodically (and at the very least, with the seasons) to see what moves and what doesn’t. If folks are drawn to it, but don’t buy it, then consider understanding what got them that far, and find a product that gets them over that final hurdle.

Impulse stock is never an easy thing to divine. But if you take the time to experiment, do your homework, find something unique, and know your customers, then you can achieve success. And a little extra profit.


~ by digitalninjasmedia on December 19, 2011.

%d bloggers like this: