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What is the Impact of Impulsive and Intentional Shopping?

Posted by Contributors on June 5, 2018

Consumer behavior is dependent on several factors, and two major ones are intent and impulse.  Both have a big impact on the modern Buyer’s Journey - online and offline - and if brands want to gain a competitive edge, they must understand and evaluate the impact that both intent and impulse have on consumers’ shopping patterns.

Further, if a brand is prepared to re-evaluate their strategy, they may be well poised to make the most out of both types of customer behaviors. Here are a few ways that brands can do that:

Intentional vs. Impulsive

Impulsive shopping - or browsing with no specific shopping agenda in mind - has traditionally and firmly belonged to the brick-and-mortar sector, with 70% of consumers most likely to make an impulse purchase at a physical store.

intentional-shopping-cutIntentional shopping, on the other hand, happens more in the world of ecommerce, with 51% of consumers more likely to make an intentional purchase online.  Intentional shopping is typically driven by a customer’s own research, brand promotions, product quality, and product price.

When looking at ecommerce and online shopping, a larger trend emerges that ties intentional and impulsive shopping together: The Buyer’s Journey begins at the same place.

Sixty-six percent of consumers, regardless of whether they’re intentionally or impulsively shopping, begin on Amazon or Google, not on a brand’s website.  In fact, for both groups, only 15% and 17% (respectively) start on a brand’s website.

This shows that consumers have the desire and power to do thorough research and learn about the products offered to them, and they exercise that power.  For example, 63% of consumers prefer to purchase expensive, big-ticket items (like electronics or furniture ) in-person at a brick and mortar location, but before they do that, they go to the online world to find credible and authoritative information and reviews about the product’s quality.


Brands need to pay attention to their customers’ Discovery Process and touchpoints, and, where possible, connect the offline and online experience.  Which brings us to Touch and Test.

Touch and Test for Ecommerce

When shopping for fashion and apparel, appearances mean everything and consumer behavior can change dramatically - and impulsively - depending on how a product “looks” to them.  When customers are in the store, they are able to feel the materials, try them on, see how they look, and then decide. So even if they go out shopping with intention, their final purchase is usually driven by impulse.

Emotions play a huge role, and online brands can easily tap into these feelings.  For example, the British e-commerce giant, Asos, stimulates their audience to make an impulsive purchase by showing their models experiencing their brand and having fun in their apparel. To establish trust and minimize fear, they also facilitate multi-faceted views of each of their products with zoom functions and video (see image below) so that online consumers can have the experience of “testing and touching” without having to actually go into brick and mortar store.


In order to stimulate more impulsive purchasing, ecommerce fashion brands need to focus on tapping into the emotions and feelings of their customers while also facilitating a smooth user experience.  They can do so by showcasing their products in an irresistible way, sharing the positive experience of others, and by providing information, stories, or images showing the quality or lifestyle associated with their apparel.

Further, brands need to realize the role that Amazon and Google play for consumers.  If the majority of both intent and impulse shoppers are starting out on these two sites, a brand can leverage this by re-positioning their products, both on their own websites as well as by partnering with third parties.

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Topics: Ecommerce, sales, Strategy, web design, image optimization, customer experience, buyers

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