What is an Impulse Purchase?

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  • Written By: Sara Schmidt
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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Consumers may be very careful with the amount of money that they spend on any given day. They may also, however, make the occasional impulse purchase. Also known as an impulse buy, an impulse purchase is a good or service that is bought spontaneously, without premeditation or planning.

Marketing divisions exist solely to develop ways to encourage impulse purchases. They create point-of-sale advertising plans that are intended to increase the likelihood of spontaneous purchases. Many of these campaigns can be experienced within the checkout lines at various stores, suggestive sales made by advertisers or food sellers, or pop-up advertisements on websites.

The philosophy behind the marketing for unplanned buys is centered around a concept called instant gratification. This feeling is considered a more irrational line of thinking than a logical one. During an impulse purchase, emotions may be relied upon more heavily, if not completely, than the buyer's practical needs and budget. Distraction, available time for shopping, and other factors can also contribute to impulse buying.

Retailers, advertisers, and marketers speculate which goods and services their customers may wish to buy immediately to gratify an urge, such as a food craving. Toys, candy bars, soft drinks, and other small items are often strategically placed to encourage consumers to make a spontaneous purchase. Impulse items are often something that the buyer may not even have a use for at all.


Customers are encouraged to make impulse purchases in other ways as well. Some items are marketed with a specific brand, symbol, or other attractive packaging. Specific favorite characters may be used to market impulse items toward children. Others may be displayed as being related to products a consumer is already purchasing, or offered as sale items. The complete layout of many retail venues are designed to encourage impulsive buying in each aisle.

Large items may also be considered impulse purchases. The largest impulse purchase is typically the automobile, as its symbol of status attracts purchasers through emotional means rather than logical ones. For this reason, vehicles are often marketed to appeal to consumer desire rather than need. An necessary home appliance may also be considered an impulse purchase.

Some purchasers who continually make impulse purchases are known as impulse buyers or impulse purchasers. In extreme circumstances, these buyers may accrue large amounts of debt due to their buying habits. Some of these consumers may attempt to break their impulsive buying behavior with budget planning, careful shopping, or even professional help.


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Post 1

I don't think that if someone makes impulse purchases, it means that they cannot control themselves and have some sort of a shopping addiction. I think we all buy some things out of impulse sometimes because of the strategic way it is marketed to us.

It happens to me in stores when I'm in line to check out and I see all sorts of goods near the checkout section that look very cheap. I feel like I have to pick up some things from there or else I will lose the chance forever. It's like my last chance to get it and I'd rather have it than regret it.

The worst part is that even online stores have

started doing this. Right before you confirm your purchase from online stores, they now show a page with discounted goods that you can add to your cart before finalizing it. This makes me feel exactly as I do while in checkout in physical stores! And of course, I can't resist picking up something, in case I never get the chance to find that product for the same price again!

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