Probably we might notice that, most times, we ended up with buying more than what were planned for while we shopped for groceries or other durable things. It may happen for many reasons. One could be due to coming across a product that we might need in near future but did not think of putting it in the buying list, simply because we forgot about it. While shopping for eggs, you might think that you were almost out of salt. This is quite an “innocent” type of need, recognized due to unplanned encounter. This may not be the impulse buying though.
So what is an impulse buying? Theoretically, impulse buying refers to purchasing anything based on emotional or momentary feeling of a need which was not actually thought of while started shopping. It is based more on impulse (momentary emotion at the time of encounter in the store) than on logical/rational assessment of customers’ actual need. Most (not all) impulse buying may result in customers buying things that he/she may not actually use in future, but he/she thinks that this is/are the thing(s) that need to be bought at that moment. Projecting in the future, one might find that he/she has an exercise gadget that was hardly used; bought books that were hardly read; bought a movie in dvd (due to its attractive cover) only to find a boring story later; bought a bunch of clothes that were hardly worn in a year; or bought some fancy gadgets that collected dust on the cupboard!
Without getting into an ethical debate whether stores should entice customers to get into an impulse buying situation or not, this type of consumer behavior could be a goldmine for retailers as customers may spend more than what they planned for if they can be wooed to buy a product that has impulsive value. Novelty products are often displayed so vividly that customers’ emotion may overtake logical assessment to lead an actual purchase. Fashion retailers and electronics marketers often use this technique to arouse impulsive buying behavior. Discounts and promotional deals in grocery stores may also give rise to impulsive buying. Discounted cars and top-notch in-store promotion of durable goods can also lead to this type of buying behavior.
Whatever reasons it may lead to impulse buying, it moves to the same end: customers buying more than what he/she thought to be needed. If you are a retailer, review your merchandise arrangement, in-store decoration and promotional displays in order to assess whether you are missing something from your customers.