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Impulse buying and the importance of packaging

Impulse buying and the importance of packaging

Despite meticulously writing shopping lists in advance, many German consumers only decide what they are actually going to buy at the point of sale (POS). According to the GfK “STORE EFFECT” study from 2009, almost 70 percent of purchasing decisions are made on the spot. In the same study, the researchers also came to the conclusion that almost 40 percent of purchases are even made spontaneously in-store. In this article, we take a closer look at impulse buying and explain the role packaging plays in this.

What characterizes an impulse purchase?

An impulse purchase is the opposite of a planned purchase. For a consumer to make such a spontaneous purchase, the product in question must catch their eye and also appeal to them emotionally.

The time span in which a consumer makes an impulsive purchase decision is very short. On average, the customer makes a decision within three to seven seconds. Important aspects in this context are

– clever product placement that is exciting for the consumer and
– attractive, impressive packaging.

They should support the so-called pull mechanism, i.e. encourage the consumer to reach for the specific product.

Interesting figures from the GfK STORE EFFECT study

In addition to the findings mentioned at the beginning, there are other exciting results from the GfK study. Here is an overview of the most interesting figures:

– Every third consumer enters the POS with a real or mental shopping list. The older the customer and the larger the store, the more likely they are to use a guide.

– In only around 30 percent of cases do consumers decide on a brand in advance and then buy it.

– In over 15 percent of purchases, consumers only decide on the product group in advance; they only select the specific product when they reach the shelf.

– Just under ten percent of customers initially plan to buy a certain brand, but deviate from their plan in the store and give preference to a competitor product instead.

– Just under ten percent also do not buy what they originally intended to.

– The proportion of pure impulse purchases is 40 percent. This means that often almost half of the goods that end up in the shopping cart or basket are due to spontaneity.

– Overall, the final decision for or against a product is made at the POS in almost 70 percent of cases.

These figures are from 2009, but if you look at the trend, the influence directly in the store is now likely to be even greater: in 2001, the proportion of purchase decisions that were only made at the POS was still around 55%.

Which purchases at the POS can be influenced towards impulsivity

From the findings of the GfK study, it can be deduced that the following purchases at the POS can be influenced towards spontaneity and impulsiveness:

1. purchases where the product category is planned but the brand itself is still unplanned

Example: The consumer wants to buy a yoghurt, but has not decided whether it should be Ehrmann, Söbbeke, ja!, gut & günstig or another brand.

2. purchases where a specific brand is planned, but where there is still a certain openness to change

Example: The consumer plans to buy a yogurt from Ehrmann. On the spot, however, the alternative from Söbbeke appeals to him more, so he changes his mind.

3. purchases for which specific products are planned, but which are then dispensed with on site

Example: The customer actually intends to buy a yogurt. At the POS, however, no brand/variety appeals to him sufficiently, so he decides against the product altogether.

4. purchases where a completely unplanned product is bought

Example: The consumer had not actually planned to buy a yogurt. However, a product in this category catches his attention on the spot and motivates him to buy it.

It is obvious that packaging is a key factor in all four cases. And as we can see from point 3, packaging can also have a negative effect. If no item looks attractive enough, a consumer sometimes decides not to make a planned purchase.

How packaging design can drive impulse purchases

The packaging should attract the consumer’s attention and make them reach for the product in question. To achieve this, it must be eye-catching and appealing. Only if the packaging triggers a positive emotional reaction in the consumer is there a high probability that they will decide to make an impulse purchase. The following aspects of packaging design can be conducive to this:

– Bright and vibrant colors: they attract the eye and convey optimism, cheerfulness.

– High-quality presentation: Packaging that radiates quality and luxury is attractive, especially for premium products.

– Clear product images and information: Packaging that presents the product clearly and concisely in images and text makes the purchase decision easier.

– Recognizability of the brand: A familiar brand that designs the packaging of its products consistently – i.e. uniformly and recognizably – encourages existing customers to make impulse purchases.

– Innovative forms of packaging: New and unique designs arouse curiosity and thus also the desire to make a spontaneous purchase.

Conclusion: Many opportunities to further increase the high proportion of impulse purchases

As the GfK STORE EFFECT study shows, the proportion of impulse purchases at the POS is already very high. Brands have the opportunity to exploit this to their advantage and push this figure even further: through creative, expressive packaging design that appeals to consumers visually and conveys the added value of the respective product clearly and stylishly.

Source (study):

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