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  • Writer's pictureDeJuan Wright

3 Ways to Trigger Shoppers to Make an Impulse Purchase

Updated: Jan 21

What’s the one thing that you’re sure to find next to a checkout counter at just about every Target, Walmart, and any other grocery store chain in America? If you guessed candy, you are correct! But have you ever sat back and really thought about just why that is?

Well, the reason that candy is strategically placed next to checkout counters at most grocery stores is because chocolate is the food most-favored by women. In fact, research conducted by Nutritionist Dr. Susan Mitchell, found that, “Chocolate is hands down the number one food women crave.”

By placing chocolates and other candies next to their checkout counters, adroit grocery store managers found a way to stimulate women's cravings (historically, women traditionally did most household grocery shopping). This serves as a trigger, often causing women to impulsively make last-minute candy purchases when placing the products that they really came to the store for on the checkout counter (it also triggers children to ask their parents to buy candy for them).

That’s just one clever tactic used to trigger shoppers to make an impulse purchase. These are three more that also do the same.

1. Show an end date

According to a recent study by Slickdeals, the average American currently spends $314 each month on impulse purchases. To clarify, impulse purchases are considered purchases that are made without prior intention of doing so.

If you’d like for your business to be on the beneficiary end of some of those impulse purchases, a great way to start is by clearly displaying an end date to shoppers for your most valuable offers.

Author and entrepreneur, the late Napoleon Hill, once said that, “A goal is a dream with a deadline.” The same is also true when it comes to offering shoppers a great deal. In order to influence an impulse purchase by way of a valuable offer—consumers need to know that your offer has a near deadline.

By conveying to consumers that their chance of getting great value on a deal will be taken away very soon—the fear of missing out (FOMO) will kick in. Which often overrides their innate urge to procrastinate. Just make sure that whichever deadline you set is definite and final. If not, consumers won’t take your deadlines seriously moving forward.

2. Sell something that’s rare

As kids, me and my childhood friends were absolutely obsessed with collecting basketball cards. Our obsession with buying and trading basketball cards was so intense, we’d often ride our bicycles from my hometown of Oakland, California, to neighboring city San Leandro, just to buy cards.

One day, one of my friends, by sheer luck—purchased a pack of basketball cards that contained an Allen Iverson rookie card. In mint condition at that!

Within a matter of hours, word got around our neighborhood that my friend had the rookie card. Suddenly, other kids from blocks away began coming to our block and approaching my friend with all kinds of crazy trade offers in hopes of getting their hands on his prized card (which he refused to trade or sell at the time).

The reason why so many kids were so willing to trade some of their most prized possessions at the time for the Allen Iverson rookie card is because although they probably didn't know exactly how much the card was worth at the time—they knew that it was very valuable—because it was very rare.

By announcing to your audience that what you’re selling is rare; and placing a premium price on it that represents just how valuable it is—people will perceive it as valuable. Which would help influence them to buy it on the spot.

3. Use their senses to your advantage

Have you ever walked through a mall and all of a sudden, found yourself being captivated by the sweet smell of a Cinnabon or Auntie Anne’s pretzels? If so, at that moment—you probably had to muster up every ounce of willpower you had in order to resist purchasing a cinnamon roll or pretzel (be honest, our willpower doesn’t always win that battle).

That’s because those smells are what’s known as ‘scent triggers.’ “Scent triggers are specific aromas that trigger your brain to take a trained action or instantly evokes an emotion.” Says scent specialist Anthony Tori.

If you have a brick-and-mortar store, you can use sensory marketing to trigger an impulse purchase by cleverly placing scents in your store at particular touchpoints to evoke pleasant memories. By evoking pleasant memories, shoppers will want to bottle up that feeling for as long as they can. Which often results in them making a purchase.

If your business sells hot food, there’s no need to do this. But if not, companies like Scent Air specialize in providing the perfect aroma for your business to help trigger your patrons to make an impulse purchase.


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