Research Outline

Common Online Impulse Buys


  • To understand the product categories that are frequenctly purchased on impulse online by price range.
  • The best practices in presenting impulse shopping online. Specifically the offers and presentation that are most effective.

Early Findings


  • One-third of US consumers surveyed in a study by Marketing Support "make a sizeable online impulse buy every week, with a median purchase of $30."
  • When e-commerce stores leverage social influence, this can encourage impulse purchases. This is because customers are more likely to make impulse purchases when they see their peers purchasing that product. On social media marketplaces, the more “likes” that a "product receives and the larger the live video audience, the more likely a consumer is to experience an impulsive urge to buy." An example might be highlighting popular products on Instagram and Facebook.
  • By lowering the perceived risk of transacting online, online stores can encourage impulse buys. This can be done with a generous return/refund policy, offering these products on sale so customers think they are getting a good deal, and offering unexpected/surprise coupons at the beginning of the shopping journey.
  • E-commerce stores can encourage impulse buying by enhancing the perceived proximity to the product. Specifically, these stores can enhance the vividness and "interactivity of online product presentations to help the consumer feel physically closer to the product." An example might be offering same or next day shipping on that product and add-on product recommendations.
  • Online sites like use features such as "this product is in high demand" or "30 people are looking right now" to lure customers to buy these products on impulse.
  • When consumers perceive product scarcity, they are more likely to buy the product almost immediately. An example might be "only 2 left in stock." Similarly, limited-time offers such as a countdown clock or a deadline on product availability "are one of the most commonly self-reported triggers of online impulse buying."
  • Having a user-friendly website navigation - including only a few steps to enter billing and shipping information, gives customers less time to think about the product they are purchasing.
  • A visually appealing website design, diverse product varieties, and mouthwatering photography on the website are other factors that have been proven to encourage impulse buys online.


  • A study done by the University of Michigan revealed that Macys, OpticsPlanet, Amazon, Newegg, and Target have the most impulse buying features. They each have over 30 impulse buying features.
  • The top product categories that these websites employ the most impulse buying features on are apparel/accessories, automotive, books/music/video, computers/electronics, and flowers/gifts.