impulse purchasing – creating the right store environment for impulse buyers

A staggering 85% of the UK population admit to buying things on impulse and therefore it probably comes as no surprise that retailers are constantly asking me if I can harness the power of impulsivity through design? My answer is that it can be done, but to deliver impulse requires a lot of planning!

First and foremost, you need to define the values that make your brand relevant to your customers and differentiate it from competitors. Then it’s about developing an interior concept that communicates those values, attracting customers and enticing them to spend more in-store, via both planned and impulse purchases. To achieve this the store must become a seductive, compelling environment that tells the “brand story”. Getting the right interior look is critical and interior architecture has got to be exactly on brand.

Creating a unique ‘signature’ environment is often about creating an aspirational environment, a sense of belonging.Tommy Hilfiger for example recently converted a listed building in Berlin, which the design team loaded with beautiful antique light fixtures, interesting pieces of furniture, beautiful rugs and comfortable leather sofas and armchairs. These make some parts of the store feel like a very chic home, one that you are excited and privileged to be in. In fact, the store is so beautiful that you ache to take a part of it home with you, and of course you can, because the gorgeous clothes hanging on the rails are for sale! Also, make sure that your store has “speed bumps”: merchandise displays that work much the same way as speed bumps in parking lots: they slow customers down.

One of the best ‘speed bumps’ is the changing room area. If the customer has made it this far, they intend to make a purchase and one might assume that all spontaneity has now been used up. However, this is vital impulse territory. For example, ‘smart’ changing rooms, that suggest items to go along with the one selected by the customer, frequently unlock our impulsive side, bringing what retail anthropologist Rich Kizer calls “merchandise outposts” back into the customer journey. Although, they may have passed the handbags five minutes earlier with no interest at all, having a compatible handbag suggested at this point can often promote the “I need that!” response, which goes on to secure a sale. If you own a retail store you will undoubtedly understand the simple idea that if customers spend more time in your store, they are more likely to spend more money.

US company, Path Intelligence, recently published a report that shows that extending a customer’s visit by 1%, will see a 1.3% increase in sales. Basically, the longer they stay in store the more unplanned or spontaneous their purchases become. So, get the look right, bear in mind dwell time, make people feel happy, indulged and relaxed. You have now set the scene to encourage very profitable impulse behaviour!

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