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What Is Impulse Spending?

There are so many opportunities to impulse shop today. Between the targeted ads on social media, the viral products, the influencers, the constant emails with discounts, and the in-store sales, you can have a difficult time saying no to impulse shopping. In fact, the FOMO that saying no can cause is sometimes enough for you to say yes.

We've all made an impulse purchase at some point or another, but for a lot of people, impulse shopping is a regular part of their day or week. Impulse shopping can range anywhere from a habit to an addiction where those individuals seek professional help.

In this blog post, we'll answer some important questions - what is impulse shopping, why we do it, and where you can do it.

What is impulse spending?

I like to define it as 'making a purchase without thought or consideration often triggered by an advertisement or sale.' It all boils down to making a triggered purchase. A lot of times this purchase wasn't even on your radar or your list. It's a sudden desire or impulse that's triggered by something external.

Think about your last impulse purchase. What triggered it - a social media influencer, an in-store sale, a targeted ad, etc.? Impulse purchases are generally unnecessary and outside of your budget and can lead to overspending, clutter, and financial woes if it becomes a habit.

Though individuals have been buying and selling for a really long time, it was during the 20th century when the rise of marketing and advertising techniques got better, when impulse shopping became a phrase. Clever marketing strategies and persuasive messaging were designed to trigger impulsive buying behaviours.

Companies had a wider reach with television and radio to create a desire for their products. The industrial revolution and mass production beginning in the late 18th century brought about significant changes in manufacturing and consumerism. With the mass production of goods, a variety of affordable products became available to the general population. The accessibility of these goods increased the likelihood of impulse buying as people were exposed to an ever-expanding range of options.

Since then, marketing companies have become smarter in knowing how to price, position, and market a product that speaks to your internal desires and impulses.

Why Do We Impulse Shop?

There are so many reasons we impulse shop. As we've talked about earlier, there are external reasons that can cause us to buy unplanned items, however, impulse spending is highly emotional as well.

Often interchanged with the phrase emotional spending, we often make impulse buys based on how we feel. We use shopping as a way to regulate our emotions. A lot of individuals go shopping when they're stressed, bored, sad, anxious, or depressed because shopping provides a temporary boost of dopamine.

In case you don't know, dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that plays a role in reward-motivated behavior. It's associated with feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation. When you engage in impulsive shopping, particularly when it involves acquiring something new or exciting, dopamine is released in your brain, leading to a sense of pleasure or excitement.

It's always good practice to consider why you're making a particular purchase and what emotions you're feeling at the moment. The dopamine that you experience is only temporary, and once it wears off, you may feel a sense of regret (buyer's remorse) or guilt. Instead of making spontaneous purchases, exercise mindfulness and self-control.

Where Can You Impulse Shop?

When grocery and department stores created specific aisles that target impulse buyers they created the framework for other companies to replicate very easily. At first, the impulse aisle in the grocery store would have gum, batteries, candy, etc. Today, you can find several magazines, mini-refrigerators with drinks, snacks, and more. The message is clear - shop while you wait - even though you already shopped and are ready to cash out.

This impulse aisle has been revamped by other stores like Marshalls/Home Goods, Ulta/Sephora, Old Navy, and others. Retailers have redesigned their stores to include a long impulse aisle that makes several turns.

At Ulta and Sephora, you can find smaller and full-sized products or makeup, skincare, hair care, and body care that are already on shelves in the store. In Home Goods or Marshalls, you can find succulents, journals, mugs, dog toys, photo frames, and more.

Don't think that the impulse aisle is only limited to in-store retailers. When shopping at Dominos, they've structured their checkout process to be a step-by-step experience that includes appetizers, drinks, and desserts. Instead of asking you at the end of the process, would you like to add a drink, they've added that as a step in the checkout process. Yes, you can say no, but if you don't realize it, you may think that it's included with your meal. The step-by-step process is there to condition your mind that you're missing an item, or your meal is incomplete without these items.