Factors that affect Impulse Buying


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From research, it is evident that the concept of impulse buying creates a large market for many companies in the country and globally. With the development of the online environment, it is becoming a critical factor in the success of marketers (Karbasivar & Yarahmadi 2011). When customers are making their purchases, they tend to develop particular behaviours, and impulse buying is one of the most common. The tendency is mostly influenced by emotional aspects. Impulse buying is a huge part of purchasing from the online environment (Ahmed & Parmar 2013). Comprehending the nature and factors that impact impulse buying is critical for the marketers and companies to define a winning marketing strategy. Therefore, it is important to reflect on the nature and factors to provide a more informed view of the buying behaviour.

The Nature of Impulse Buying

The modern age is characterized by the rise in information technology. It is possible for the customers to do their shopping through online platforms. The retail stores are diverse, selling a wide range of products (Ahmed & Parmar 2013). In most cases, potential buyers visit the online stores without necessarily seeking to purchase. In the process, they come across items that appeal to them, and hence include them in their purchase list. The behaviour has encouraged the increase in impulse buying. Research shows that approximately 40% of online expenditures are attributed to impulse purchasing (Verhagen & van Dolen 2011). The percentage is considerably higher, which indicates that there is something unique about the online environment that motivates impulse purchasing behaviour. Research indicates that online impulse purchases are more than those which are done in the conventional stores (Chan, Cheung & Lee 2017).

Impulse buying is defined as “when a consumer experiences a sudden, often powerful and persistent urge to buy something immediately” (Rook, 1987, p. 191). Impulse buying lacks the element of planning (Cobb & Hoyer, 1986). It occurs when the consumer is reminded of a need on seeing a product. The behaviour is characterized by some particular elements which set it apart from other forms of buying, mostly the planned ones (Rook 1987). One of the characteristics is that the buyer experiences an intense force driving him or her towards the product. The force is responsible for the drive to want to acquire the product immediately. The buyer tends to ignore the negative ramifications of buying the product at the moment (Bayley & Nancarrow 1998). Bateman and Holmes (1995) argue that the buyer is in a state of dream or fantasy and the laws of time and space are meaningless. Probably, the person will realize the ramifications after making the purchase.

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Factors that affect Impulse Buying

Internal Factors

The factors are usually divided into two, including the situational/external and internal factors. The internal factors are the forces within the person that makes him or her make the impulse purchase. In this case, the gender of the buyer is one such factor, with females being more likely to make an impulse purchase than males (Dittmar, Beattie & Friese 1996; Verplanken and Herabadi 2001). The social psychological model was used in a study by Dittmar, Beattie, and Friese (1996) to establish the role that the material symbols play in impulse buying. Compared to men, women tend to have more attachment to their self-image. The factor is among those which make them more compelled to make impulse purchases compared to male counterparts. Their information processing differs when they are in contact with a product which is likely to boost their self-image (Bettman 1979; Dittmar, Beattie & Friese 1996). Marketers have traditionally used the reality in appealing more to women than to men.

Age is another critical factor in developing the impulse buying behaviour. Individuals who are less than 35 years old are more inclined to impulse buying that those who are older (Bellenger et al. 1978). There are individuals who have an inherent trait to make such purchases and are unable to control themselves when the situation presents itself. Some have the “tendency to buy spontaneously, unreflectively, immediately, and kinetically” (Rook and Fisher, 1995, p. 306). Such people will always make impulse purchases ignoring all the negative consequences. The mood of the person, either negative or positive, might affect the behaviour. Those people who are dealing with stress or depression are more vulnerable to impulse buying (Verplanken and Herabadi, 2001). Positive moods like enthusiasm, delight, and joy have also been revealed to influence the behaviour (Beatty and Ferrell 1998). Some people are inherently wired to make such purchases and cannot control themselves (Weinberg & Gottwald, 1982). Evidently, impulse buying is a product of emotions rather than rational decision-making.

Hoch and Loewenstein (1991) carried a study on the interaction between desire and self-control in explaining the reality of impulse buying. Understanding the role of these two factors in impulse can be used in developing important strategies to avoid the trap of making impulse purchases. Without self-control, an individual can develop this as a behaviour and habit that becomes hard to break. The online environment is particularly tempting for individuals who tend to make the purchases (Lai 2008). Research has proven that some people are almost addicted to the purchases because of the lack of self-control (Hoch & Loewenstein 1991). The study, however, shows the possibility of avoiding the behaviour by developing self-control.

Situational Factors

The situation factors are those which relate to how tempting the buying environment is. The nature of the store, for instance, the layout and promotion determine the level of impulse buying. Bellenger et al. (1978) found that effective promotions tend to increase the rate of impulse purchases. The layout of the virtual stores has been showed to provoke the buyers to change their shopping behaviours. The reality of online shopping is that it is highly engaging and gives the buyers more control over their purchase actions. Engagement with the online channels is deeper compared to the conventional shopping outlets (Ahmed & Parmar 2013). The online stores are created in such a manner that one is able to browse through the products and make orders online. Most of these stores deliver the products to the client unlike the conventional stores where the person has to walk or drive around looking for an item.

In most cases, purchases from the physical stores are planned and budgeted for. When using the brick-and-mortar shopping, the shoppers’ decision-making is affected by perceived risks and risk relievers (Lai, 2008). When the purchase is being made online, research has established that the consumer is not critical about the perceived risks of making the purchase. Interestingly, when the individual consumer decides to buy an item, they do so during the online visits, which are not necessarily meant to shop for the product (Jeffrey & Hodge, 2007). The websites are designed in such a way that they are attractive and engaging to the customers. During the visit, the customer comes across inviting items that they do not take time to purchase, regardless the fact that they are not planned for (Lai, 2008). The appeal of the sites is making them a unique space for impulse purchases.

Availability of time and money is another situational factor that determines the tendency to make impulse buying (Beatty and Ferrell 1998). The tendency applies to conventional as well as the online stores. However, they are most likely to influence online impulse purchases. When a person has more time, going to the social media has become a significant way of enjoying leisure. Most respondents in the study agreed that they buy from online when they are passing time or as a leisure and lifestyle activity (Badgaiyana & Verma 2014). The tendency is increasingly encouraging random buying behaviours.

Merchandising skills of the marketers are an important influence when it comes to making impulse purchases. They have traditionally influenced the market and generated sales of a product. They operate in a manner that the buyer is convinced to purchase something he/she did not have the need for or plan to buy. The skills have been shown to play an important role in increasing sales through impulse buying (Badgaiyana & Verma 2014). Product position and the attention increase the chances of the buyer to make an immediate decision to buy. The online products gain the advantage of having the point-of-sale, which means that it can be spotted with ease and purchased immediately.

Product-Related Factors

Research shows that impulse buying is not the same across products. There are products which are more prone to impulse purchases compared to others, including fashion products targeting women (Bellenger, Robertson & Hirschman, 1978). Stern (1962) suggested nine products-related factors which were relevant during the time of his study and still influence impulse buying today. One of the factors is the low pricing strategy. The factor is even relevant today in the online environment (Ahmed & Parmar 2013). The cost of bringing the product to the market and the maintaining it in the market is low in the online environment. For instance, the retailer does not have to pay for a physical store. Hence, it is possible to sell the product at a low price, hence, encouraging more impulse buying. For instance, people will buy from sites such as Amazon because of the low cost offered for the products.

The marginal need for the product is another factor. When the buyer sees the product, the need is instigated which determines the possibility of making the impulse purchase. Mass distribution, especially in the online environment allows for the behaviour to manifest. Self-service is one of the characteristics of the social media. The customer has the leeway to navigate the online environment with greater control, which encourages the impulse buying behaviour (Ahmed & Parmar 2013). Technology, particularly the emergence of the World Wide Web (WWW) has enabled the marketers to interact with the consumers more directly.

Online marketers are particularly aggressive with their marketing and advertising. They create ads and pop-ups, which come up throughout the social media such that they are too tempting to the buyer (Karbasivar & Yarahmadi 2011). There are even ads that come up when one is making a different purchase, marketing complementary products which are too tempting. The buyer might end up making more than one purchase, some of which are unplanned. Prominent store display which has become common with the online retailers is another influencing force. Short product life and small-sized products sold online motivates the buyers to make immediate purchases. A huge number of online retailers do not operate a physical store (Karbasivar & Yarahmadi 2011). Therefore, ease of storage is important for the buyers and sellers.

There are also social factors that influence buying. The influencers are such that the actions, behaviours, or decisions of a buyer are affected by others. In many cases, friends have an influence on the decision made by another person. Social media is a strong tool in relation to this factor. When one person buys a product and posts the message on social media, he/she will influence many others to make the purchase. Social influence is usually evident in socialization, conformity, obedience, peer pressure, leadership, sales, persuasion, and marketing.  Interpersonal influence is a common factor in buying decisions (Ahmed & Parmar 2013). The potential for online content to go viral is an aspect that most marketers are taking an advantage when influencing buying behaviours of the consumers. The influence normally operates when one of the customers makes the purchase and realizes that it is of good quality. The message of the positive attributes will motivate more purchases, most of which will be impulse.


Impulse buying is one of the aspects that the marketers take advantage of to increase the sales revenues for their companies. Buyers usually purchase items they had not planned for, mostly seeing them or getting convinced by the marker. The buying behaviour is influenced by forces which are either internal or external. In the end, the person makes the impulse decision to buy without considering the consequences. Therefore, understanding the concept and factors that influence impulse buying is a fundamental concept applied by the companies and by extension the marketers to initiate the best marketing strategy.

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