Buyers back off on impulse buying


As holiday shoppers roam the aisles of stores, wait in lines, and get carried away by the twinkle of Christmas tunes, they often toss extra items in their shopping carts. A box of chocolates. A tube of lip gloss. Or the perfect gift for a friend or family member who wasn’t originally on the list.

This year, however, retail analysts expect impulse buying to decline as consumers start shopping earlier, cut back in-store trips, and search for specific gift items online over the course of the year. Coronavirus pandemic.

Impulse purchases typically generate 25% of overall vacation spending, according to The NPD Group. This year, it is expected to generate 18% to 20% – a potential loss of $ 5-7 billion in sales for the season, the market research firm estimates.

Marshal Cohen, chief industry adviser for The NPD Group, said accelerating e-commerce sales during the pandemic – which is expected to outlive the global health crisis – will force retailers to face the conundrum to encourage impulse purchases in an online environment. He said the spending “fuels the equation, regardless of category,” but is a particularly important sales driver for certain merchandise like beauty.

“What stores used to do was use the crowds, use the prices, use the ground to have products that you didn’t expect to see in places where they wouldn’t normally be.” , did he declare. “Without the traffic in the store, how can I browse online to make you see things you didn’t expect to see? This is the challenge facing the retail industry today ”.

This is one of the factors that could lower overall vacation spending, according to NPD. Shoppers plan to spend an average of $ 691 over the holiday season – less than the $ 740 they planned to spend last year, according to NPD’s survey of more than 3,400 consumers. Respondents said they plan to do about half of those holiday purchases online this year.

Some withdraw from the gifts after losing their jobs or suffering a cut in wages. Others spend less as they turn to homemade or meaningful gifts and have a different look due to the devastating effects of Covid-19.

During the holiday season, retailers used digital tools to recommend items to customers or encourage them to buy more. TO Walmart, for example, the retailer added a “Last minute offers“on her website that teases fun items, from toys to small kitchen appliances, that shoppers can buy on a whim. Target set up gift guides to give puzzled buyers ideas or present them with items they might not otherwise discover.

This holiday season, Bed bath and beyond put together collections of products that go together to try to entice people to put complementary items in their shopping cart. For example, it has a “Cozy Backyard Holiday Collection“with cushions, copper mugs for hot drinks, candles and a fire pit – an assortment inspired by families, friends and neighbors who have gathered outside to reduce risks when they get together for The homeware retailer has also improved its website, so it loads faster and has fewer payment steps – factors that can cause shoppers to click and abandon their purchases.

Many other retailers are experimenting with other strategies, such as suggesting items based on where a shopper clicks, showing clickable targeted ads on social media, or emailing them later if they give up. an item in their shopping cart.

Ambo Bose, director of practices at Fractal Analytics, said the artificial intelligence company is working with retailers and consumer packaged goods companies to reach customers in new ways, especially when they’re ready to shop. improvised. . For example, he said, the company has found that shoppers are more likely to purchase chocolates and other candies on their smartphones when they aimlessly browse social media or shopping sites after lunch. . Now is the right time for candy makers to pop a buyable ad at a good discount, he said.

Retailers have also tried to improve their recommendations by using “personas,” he said. As they get to know a customer’s preferences and dislikes from buying habits, they can group them with similar customers and recommend items in a targeted email or sidebar. on a web page.

With that comes another challenge related to the pandemic, however. Retailers have attracted new digital customers as shoppers download apps or try online services like curbside pickup for the first time. But they have less information about them to use.

About 9% of new online shoppers do not yet have an established online shopping profile, such as an email address on retailer distribution lists, according to a survey by Adobe Analytics of more than 1 000 American consumers in October. The company said this resulted in a 10% drop in email sales during the holiday season.

Bose said encouraging additional purchases will remain a puzzle retailers need to focus on. Online shopping turns even some of the most basic buying principles upside down, he said. Instead of a huge store aisle, retailers need to draw shoppers’ attention to a product on a small smartphone screen. Consumers buy with a “search and scroll” mindset. And even after seeing an engaging article, they can quickly click.

“It’s not enough to put it in the basket,” he said. “While the cart inside the store is an intention to buy and move towards the cashier, the online cart is more of an intention to assess.”


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