How To Turn a Product Into an “Impulse Buy”

Especially around the holidays, shopping is a constant battle of wills: The retailer pulls out all the stops to encourage customers to buy, buy, buy. The shopaholics mentally prepare themselves not to overdo it when they head to the store. Say it with me now: “I do not need another pair of cute little flats (or boots or kitten heels or stilettos)!”

As a small business owner, you need to put yourself in your customer’s shoes (metaphorically, that is) if you want to encourage your customer to pick up the cute little flats (and boots, kitten heels, and stilettos). So how can you entice them to make a purchase, particularly an unplanned, impulsive one? Here are a few tips:

1) Offer specials and discounts — It’s hard to resist a good deal. Even if you only drop the price slightly, it sends a signal to customers that now is the best time to pick up the product. After all, if they wait, the special could end and they could miss out.

It’s also a good strategy that can help get them in the door. Black Friday — the official start of the holiday shopping season on the Friday after Thanksgiving — is an excellent example of how retailers draw in customers. Hordes of shoppers line up at midnight or in the early morning hours to purchase limited-supply, super-discounted flat screen televisions or other normally high-priced goodies. Inevitably (and perhaps a bit giddy from the amazing deal they just scored) they pick up other items while they’re there, too.

2) Create an enticing display — This applies not just to clothing, but all products, from furniture to pet supplies. Arrange and group items as they are meant to be used — the display can give the shopper ideas about products they didn’t even think about buying or realize they needed.

Sometimes all it takes is a big sign at the end of the aisle promoting a particular product and putting the price in big bold numbers. Frugalista Carrie Kirby, a blogger for Chicago Shopping and a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, says such tactics even catch her sometimes (although she wouldn’t be the Frugalista if she didn’t know to check the fine print and find out the actual price of the item).

3) Make it easy — If you offer a special, don’t make customers jump through hoops to get it. Don’t make them fill out a special form or sign up for a membership (unless this is more of a priority for your business). Don’t give them the opportunity to reconsider whether or not they want to buy something.

If all else fails, consider making your store smell like cookies. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that women were more likely to splurge on new clothes when they smelled chocolate chip cookies.

About Ellen Lee

Ellen Lee is a business and technology freelance writer in San Francisco. Reach out to her at ellenleeonline@gmail.com.
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