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What influences Britain’s £21.7 billion worth of impulse purchases?

Half of consumers admit to making impulse purchases every time they go shopping and it is estimated that Britons spend £21.7 billion on impulse purchases each year. This is according to a study by point-of-sales company DisplayMode.

When asked what persuaded them to make these impulse buying decisions, the top five answers were:

  1. Monetary offers and deals – 92%
  2. Persuasive displays – 64%
  3. Hearing about an item from a friend/family member – 57%
  4. The item itself – 48%
  5. A convincing salesperson – 17%

Discussing why marketers should factor in the power of impulse buys, Leon Edwards, managing director of DisplayMode, says: “It is important for any consumer-facing industry to remember the power of the impulse purchase, particularly during this time of the year when there are so many in-store sales, discounts and offers, and many people will have been gifted with money or vouchers over the festive period. We often forget that so many consumer purchasing decisions, both in-store and online, are made on a whim, with little to no planning made before the moment one parts with their money.”

When it comes to the types of marketing that works, Edwards says that it is important to think big: “Through their consumer-facing campaigns, marketers and PR professionals should aim to appeal to audiences that frequently make purchasing decisions on an impulse, and big, spontaneous campaigns are often the right way to appeal to these potential customers of clients. It is also important to consider where a campaign is to be engaged with the most by a client’s target demographic, be it through social media, interactive displays or flash mobs.”

However, as impulsive decisions can be unpredictable, there must be some leeway for the unexpected. Edwards says: “It’s important to loosen the grip a little bit on any set-in-stone campaigns you may be planning and to ensure you take into account the unpredictable nature of the human psyche.

“It is still important that you create detailed campaigns with week-in, week-out plans for you and your client to follow, but don’t feel as if this needs to be followed to a T. Allowing yourself and your team some creative freedom is crucial for those clients who do want to appeal to those buyers with more impulsive tendencies.”

Edwards concludes that you have to think about what makes you make your own rash decisions: “It is difficult trying to plan a campaign for spontaneous decisions, it seems a bit oxymoronic, but it is possible if you just loosen up your ideas a little bit and think like your inner impulse buyer. I mean we’ve all done it at some point in our lives!”


The team at DisplayMode conducted the research into Britons’ attitudes towards the retail sector and consumer spending habits. Researchers asked whether participants had items at home that they’d impulsively bought, that they have never used and were planning to throw out, to which 71% stated they did. Next, all participants were asked to provide how much they believed they spent in an average week on impulse buys. The average amount from these answers which was found to be £8. Taking this into account and assuming that the average Briton would spend £416 on each year, researchers took figures from the Office Of National Statistics to calculate that adult Britons spend an estimated £21.7 billion on impulse purchases annually.

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