Encouraging impulse purchases

So I was in the City this weekend with my fiancée Natalie and we popped into La Senza to pick up an early Christmas present for Nat’s sister. While we were at the checkout I noticed that the cashiers were using a very effective technique for encouraging impulse purchases.

La Senza offer a complimentary gift wrapping service, and even if you don’t want a full blown gift box, they still take the time to wrap your purchases in a nice way. This gives them the time to have a quick chat with the customer and in our case, while the cashier was wrapping the set of PJ’s we’d picked and asked Nat if they were for her, she replied explaining that they were a Christmas present for her sister to which we were offered a gift box. While she was boxing them and chatting about how many people were doing their Christmas shopping early these days she dropped in “have you seen our fluffy bedsocks? we’ve got some in pink and brown which would go really well with these PJ’s” which prompted Nat to go back into the store after her purchase to take a look at.

I’d also been listening in to the cashier next to us who did exactly the same, noticed what product the customer was purchasing and recommended a specific complimentary product of a relatively low value. This customer also went back into the store to take a look at the other product.

There’s lots of opportunities for brick & mortar retail stores to passively encourage impulse buys, such as the common technique of having lots of low-value products near and around the checkout, but it was interesting to see the cashiers actively encouraging impulse purchases so effectively by suggesting products based on the customers purchase rather than lazily offering a single product-of-the-day type deal and I began to wonder how this could translate to e-commerce retailers.

It’s a common technique on e-commerce sites to offer matching products but more often than not these database driven lists aren’t very useful. When I purchased my netbook online I was presented with a selection of “You might also like” products, 2 of which were the same netbook in different colours. Other stores such as Amazon make great use of “Other customers also bought…” type lists which attempt to tap into common buyer preferences which undoubtedly works really well for companies like Amazon, but small retailers might benefit more by adopting this La Senza type approach by giving their customers a small selection of products which compliment their specific purchase and are of a low enough value to be treated as an impulse purchase.

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