Driving Sales Through Impulse Purchases

Snacking and indulging in a treat has always been synonymous with the vending and self-service markets; having food and beverages available at a convenient location whenever it is desired is the impetus for the evolution of our diverse industry. The notion of buying on impulse, good or bad, ensures we have continued growth and a sustainable business model for years to come. In fact, the importance of impulse purchases cannot be ignored. Most consumer research since the mid 1940’s has shown that impulse purchases account for 40% - 80% of all consumer purchases. We just need to understand how to continue respond to these impulses in order to maximize the potential of our future sales.

An impulse purchase occurs when there is a strong and sudden emotional desire, with little attention paid to controlling this desire. This tendency to buy spontaneously, and without reflection, can be explained as an individual experiencing the effect of immediate gratification. This is where the negative perception of impulse purchases comes from; the belief we lack control, let our emotions or phycological triggers force us to act somehow irrational or without discipline, and, that retailers are taking advantage of this. While some of the reasons for buying on impulse may be genuine, it is also our ability to meet and deliver on these responses is the reason we continue to be successful. 

A common misconception about impulse purchases is that they are always triggered because of low or no control. Unplanned purchases can occur simply because the consumer needs to purchase a product. We see this more frequently now as people’s lives are busier than ever; pre-planning meals and snacks for work, school, or social engagements is not always top of mind. Consumers therefore need to rectify this gap when they arrive at their destination and sales can benefit as a result. We also know from research that impulse purchases can arise from sensory experiences (e.g., lighting, product display layouts, atmosphere, etc.). Purchases made in retail areas are often higher than online purchases, as all five senses can be stimulated in a live experience (think about the smell of coffee or freshly baked cinnamon buns).

How Can You Maximize Impulse Purchases?

  • A Blast From The Past: Seeing a unique product from the past they have not seen in a while drives positive emotional triggers and often results in higher impulse decisions.
  • New & Novel: Younger customers are always looking for the newest flavour or offering; pay attention to the up and coming flavours and include some in your offering.
  • Effective Merchandising: This means that you are continually refreshing your display areas in self-serve stations, office coffee offerings and machines so that they always look fresh and clean.
  • Tantalize the Senses: Pay attention to these three senses: sight, smell and touch. 
  • Sight: We eat with our eyes, the first thing visible is often what is grabbed.
  • Smell: Our sense of smell gets our digestive juices going and drives hunger. 
  • Touch: This is a little more specific; clients will press a packaged baked good to judge how fresh it is, or use touch to select a fresh piece of fruit in a merchandising display before selecting. 

Take advantage of strong impulse purchases and always keep up to date on changing consumer expectations; success can rely in part on your ability to stay agile in your product and service offering and maximize on any impulse opportunities that may arise.

Need assistance in merchandising support to drive impulse purchases for your vending, office coffee, or micro-market operation? Let Complete Purchasing Services (CPS) vending (formerly Univend) help you to find the perfect supplier partners to help you.

About the Author:
Brian Emmerton is a Registered Dietitian and the Vice President and General Manager of Complete Purchasing Services Inc, a leading supply chain solutions provider for hospitality and non-commercial clients in Canada. Brian has been working in foodservice and consumer affairs for over 30 years to help clients keep up to date on consumer trends and opportunities that help drive revenue and repeat business. Learn more about Complete Purchasing Services by visiting eCPS.ca.
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