Research Outline

Key characteristics of impulse buys


To understand the key characteristics of impulse buys, including, whether impulse buys usually stand-alone buys or are they typically purchased alongside other categories, the behaviors are common around impulse buys, and the satisfaction rates/return rates for impulse purchases. This information will be used in order to fill in the journey of someone who set off to do one behavior and then ended up making an impulse purchase.

Early Findings

During our preliminary research we were able to find insights surrounding the common impulse shopper persona, common types of impulse shopping that explain why people impulse shop, a few insights on the satisfaction rates, and the most common items that customers buy impulsively. Below is an overview of our early findings.


  • Customers tend to be more likely to make an impulse buy on an unplanned shopping trip, with 23% of them stating that they are more likely to in this circumstance.
  • 8 out of 10 impulse purchases are made in brick and mortar stores.
  • Single shoppers are more likely to make impulse buys than married shoppers at 45%.
  • On average, a customer makes 3 impulse, or unplanned, purchases in 4 out of every 10 store visits they take.
  • Millennials are the generation that is the most likely to make impulse purchases, being 52% more likely to.
  • The state of mind that men are in most often when making an impulse buy is excited (47%), followed by bored (28%), sad (14%), intoxicated (13%), and angry (8%).
  • Women are also more likely to make impulse purchases when excited (50%), followed by bored (32%), sad (28%), angry (10%), and intoxicated (5%).
  • 85% of shoppers have also claimed that their impulse purchases were due in part to taking advantage of a deal/discount.
  • 40% of consumers claimed to go out and make a purchase based on the fact that they were sent a coupon in the mail, and 33% because they were sent a coupon to their email.
  • 54% of impulse purchases tend to be for oneself.

Types of Impulse Buying

  • The eight types of impulse buying include: reminded, suggested, motivational, savings, complementary, fear of missing out, shopping enthusiasts, and decision fatigue.
  • Reminded impulse purchases refer to purchases that are made when the shopper is reminded of something they need while they are actively shopping. For example, a customer may purchase batteries after seeing them at the counter because it reminded them that their remote batteries were dead.
  • Suggested impulse purchases refer to purchases that are made when an item is suggested to the shopper whether by an employee or sales person.
  • Motivational impulse purchases refer to a purchase that is made when a shopper is motivated to buy something specifically. For example, a shopper craving a certain type of food goes and purchases that food.

Satisfaction Rates/Return Rates

  • 46% of men say they regret their impulse purchases.
  • Women, on the other hand, are more likely to regret these purchases, with 52% saying they regret them.
  • 75% of U.S. shoppers have admitted to impulse shopping. Roughly 50% of them also admit that they suffer from "buyer's remorse" afterwards.

Most Common Items

  • The top five most common impulse buys involve: food/groceries (71%), clothing (53%), household items (33%), takeout (29%), and shoes (28%)
  • Three in four American shoppers have also claimed to purchase candy at the checkout counter.
  • 32% of shoppers also admit to impulsively purchase food after passing a specific restaurant.