By Bobette Kyle
I just bought six square pieces of spongy fabric for $20 and
walked away happy - "victim" of an impulse purchase.
I was at one of those big show events and walked past a
demonstration booth. I even knew it was coming. About 50% of
the people walking out were carrying two bright yellow
As we walked toward the convention center, I told Tim (my
other half), "There's one of those guys with a microphone in
there, doing a demonstration. He gets people so excited they
think they have to buy those things. They over-pay then
never use them." I said this a bit smugly. I know of such
things, so I wouldn't succumb.
Yeah, right. This guy was good. So good, I came away with
five ideas for increasing sales from impulse purchases. Next
time you evaluate short-term sales and marketing strategies,
think about and apply these five impulse purchase lessons...
Impulse Purchase Lesson #1: Demonstrate an impressive,
If the product is chocolate, sold at a retail checkout
stand, you have no need for this one. Human nature takes
over. When you are selling unrecognizable cylinder things,
people need some encouragement.
You would never know it to look at them, but these things
were super absorbent shammies. They can suck 8 - 10 ounces
of soda out of your carpet in nothing flat AND it makes for
an impressive demonstration. When the demonstrator mentioned
they could dry a sweater in three hours, I was hooked. Never
mind we have about two spills a year in my house and I don't
own any "lay flat to dry" sweaters.
This ability to get people to "live in the moment" is one
key to a successful impulse purchase demonstration. The
salesperson has a lot to do with it, of course. Repetition
of an incredible, attractive feature, however, is key as
Think of any infomercial or "Billy Mays" product. There is
always an "AMAZING!" feature - cooks in minutes, instantly
removes stains, easily pulls dings from your car, etc.
#2 Try to "time it right".
Quite coincidentally, one of those semiannual spills in my
house happened the day before I bumped into the yellow
cylinder guy. I was thinking "If I'd had these yesterday,
right now we wouldn't have books stacked in the middle of
the living room floor." Quite by accident, he had related to
something that was top-of-mind for me.
Fortunately, you do not have to rely on coincidence. At any
one time, there are usually six or eight generally popular
"themes" you could tie into. Better yet, your target
audience is likely to have it's own unique interests.
On the Internet, you can "time it right" by associating
complementary products or services. If someone is
researching monitors, for example, perhaps they need an ink
cartridge for their printer.
Showing or highlighting ink cartridges on the screen along
with the monitors may incite an impulse purchase. Better yet
- and this is impossible unless you have order histories or
detailed profiles - show them the exact cartridge they
#3 Make it easy.
It turns out the cylinder things costs a flat $20. There was
no change to mess with, no stopping to fill in order forms,
and no multiple pieces of currency. As people pulled $20's
out of their pockets, the demonstrator took them and handed
over the shammies in a single motion.
On the Internet, you can make it easy in two ways - ordering
Make the order process as simple as possible. Amazon's
"Quick-Click" links are a good example of making ordering
easy. Impulse purchasers simply click on the "Buy from
Amazon" button and order straight off a pop-up window.
Easy delivery is another way to encourage impulse purchases
on the Internet. Immediately downloadable digital items are
an example. For physical items, quick delivery - overnight,
same day, or local store pick-up - can increase sales.
#4 Give an enticingly presented discount.
A roll of three shammies was $21 something, but the guy was
taking care of the sales tax, which made it an even $20 (But
wait, there's more!). Because it was early he would throw in
another 3-roll for no additional charge. Caught up in the
moment, we nodded agreement. We were getting a deal - no
sales tax plus three free.
The way a discount is presented can make a deal sound either
appealing or "not such a deal". Which sounds better?...
1) "Buy One, Get One Half Off." OR "Buy Two and Get a 25%
2) "3 for $5.00" OR "$1.67 each."
3) "40% Off Sale" OR "On Sale, $12.00 each." (Assuming $20
Another way to encourage impulse purchases is to give a
discount by bundling. Offer to reduce the price on a second,
related item (Like in example #1, above.).
Online, I have seen this done with books. Some booksellers
offer you a chance to save money on shipping and/or book
price if you also purchase a related item.
#5 "Keeping up with the Joneses."
Instead of putting the shammies in a bag, the demonstrator
rolled them up into a cylinder. This way, people at the show
would see others carrying them around and wonder what they
The same concept can be applied to the Internet. I have seen
messages like: "Others who bought 'x' also bought 'y'" on
order forms, at check out, and on product screens.