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Effects of in store design on impulse purchase

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Marketing
Wordcount: 3182 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Impulse buying is commonly detected phenomenon in consumption situations. Practitioners and scholars have considered impulse buying as consumption behaviour for more than sixty years. Market development strategies and technological advancements, such as credit cards, the increase in the presence of ATM machines, prevalence of convenience stores, home shopping convenience, internet shopping opportunities, and telemarketing, continues to offer various ways to ease and encourage customer shopping. As such, the frequency with which consumers engage in impulse buying continues to increase.

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Research on impulsive buying has increased during the last decade. Marketers have long recognized the significance of impulse Buying. Retailers can increase the number of impulsive purchases through product displays and store and package designs and contemporary marketing innovations. However, impulsive buying is also influenced by person-related variables. More specifically, the phenomenon of idolization is especially characteristic of early adolescence.

Bellenger, Robertson and Hirschman (1978) reported that 38.7% of department store purchases are bought on impulse. That behaviour is accompanied by a powerful urge and feelings of pleasure and excitement (Hausman, 2000; Rook. 1987; Rook & Fisher, 1995; Ramanathan & Menon, 2002). Impulse buying is a rather loosely defined concept, which covers many forms of non-rational purchase. Generally, impulse buying behaviour identifies a psychologically distinctive type of behaviour that differs dramatically from contemplative modes of consumer choice (Rook, 1987). Consistent with research on impulsiveness in the psychology literature, recent studies in marketing assert that the impulsive buying tendency is a distinctive personal trait (Beatty & Ferrell, 1998; Puri, 1996; Rook & Fisher, 1995).

Previous research (Stern, H, 1962, Bellenger, D. N., Robertson 1978, Benady, D 2003) has classified impulse purchasing into four types:

Pure: Pure impulse buying signifies a situation where the purchase happens outside of the normal behaviour and is initiated by emotional desire. For example, a consumer who hardly buys magazines might see a magazine at the checkout while waiting in line at the grocery store and want it based on the cover story or pictures.

Suggestion: Suggestion impulse buying happens when the consumer sees the product, visualizes its application, and decides that it’s needed. This is not a pure impulse purchase because the user has determined a logical or functional purpose for the item, whereas during the pure impulse the user is fulfilling an emotional desire.

Reminder: Reminder impulse buying occurs when a purchase is made based upon something reminding the consumer to make the purchase. In contrast to a pure impulse purchase, the item is something that the user normally purchases but is not necessarily on their current shopping list. For example, a shopper might walk down the cereal isle and realize that they are almost out of Cheerios. If this consumer chose to purchase cheerios, it would technically be an impulse purchase as it was unplanned, but it something that is generally purchased by the shopper.

Planned: Planned impulse buying occurs when the consumer buys a product based on price and/or product specials. For example, someone who consumes a great deal of orange juice may see a special price on it and buy them, even if it was not an intended purchase for that trip to the market.

India is in the midst of a major retailing boom as this sector is growing at 25-30% per year (A.T.Kearney, 2007). Some retailers are going overboard in enhancing store image while some others are focused on offering low prices. Does it make sense at all to spend money on beefing up store image in price-conscious India?

From a marketer’s viewpoint, this work will have a significant contribution to make. It’s important to understand that impulse buying can be caused by something more fundamental than just displays. It is also well-known that impulse buying is hugely profitable for retailers (Mogelonsky, 1998); besides impulse buying accounts for billions of dollars in sales annually. Therefore, retail managers would do well to invest in the antecedents of store image, like training store personnel, improving the layout, making the lighting attractive and by having appropriate music. In India, at least, anecdotal evidence suggests that there is a tendency on the part of even big retailers to skimp on these antecedents; for instance, the layout is often cramped and the air-conditioning is switched off from time to time. This research will help them understand that it would be unwise to cut costs on these heads, as impulse buying would be curtailed. Global players like Carrefour and Wal-Mart, who want to enter India in a big way once laws are relaxed, can also take note of our findings and design appropriate strategies i.e. beef up store image by focusing on its antecedents.

The consumer behaviour literature features ‘impulse buying’ as extraordinary, emotion-saturated buying that takes place largely without regard to financial or other consequences. Articles in the popular press feature impulse buying in a negative light and offer advice on how to avoid it. Notwithstanding the exotic aura that surrounds consumer behaviour discussions of ‘impulse buying’, the management and retailing literature approaches the topic of ‘in-store’ or ‘point of purchase’ buying as commonplace, expected and encouraged (see PhilUps and Bradshaw, 1993; Hackett et al, 1993). While shop owners from as far afield as ancient Rome and Byzantium to 17th century Madrid and (later) Paris and London used signs and displays to attract buyers, retailers in the latter half of the 20th century elevated the use and arrangement of displays, counters, racks, shelves, lighting and music nearly to an art form, (de Waele (1930) and Wycherley (1956) considered shops in the ancient world, while Myres (1953) considered grocery precursors. Braudel (1992) related the world history of shops closer to the modem era. Modem retailing texts typically contain detailed discussions with recommendations about displays. ‘Visual merchandising’ and the store environment (see eg Diamond and Pintel, 1996; BeU and Temus, 2000), Retail industry periodicals such as Drug Store News, Supermarket Business and Convenience Store News, as well as specialised management periodicals (e.g. In-Store Marketing), routinely advise managers how to structure shopping environments so as to increase unplanned and impulse buying. (Despite the differentiation of ‘impulse buying’ from unplanned buying in the consumer behaviour literature, retail and management discussions tend to use ‘point of purchase’, ‘impulse’ and ‘unplanned’ buying interchangeably.)

Literature review

Various studies are done which throws light on the consumer behaviour and all the factors leading to that behaviour. Since, buying is a process that involve cognition and decision making. A lot of studies are done to understand customer psychology while buying which can be used to design strategies.

Few previous works on consumer psychology are as follows:

Impulsiveness in any context is a difficult construct, and one that can be defined in many ways (Coscina 1997, Webster and Jackson 1997a, 1997b), nonetheless the basic elements of these generic psychological definitions are evident in most existing definitions of impulse buying, such as that offered by Rook and Hoch (1985):

1. Sudden and spontaneous desire to act;

2. Temporary loss of control;

3. Psychological conflict and struggle;

4. Reduction of cognitive evaluation;

5. Disregard for consequences.

This perspective is reflected in Rook’s (1987) definition of impulse purchasing as “a sudden, often powerful and persistent urge to buy something immediately”.

Rook and Hoch (1985) suggest that even at the height of impulse buying episodes, customers often engage in ‘inner dialogue’. Additionally some studies have examined how consumers may reject the impulse to buy something and exert self-control when negative normative evaluations reach some critical level (Rook and Fisher 1995). Other consumers may actively employ strategies to prevent impulse buying. For example, people may attempt to regulate their own behaviour through willpower, not going shopping or leaving credit cards at home.

In the 1980s, important works by Rook (1987) and Rook and Hoch (1985) clarified the nature of impulse buying. Rook and Hoch (1985, 23) aptly noted, “It is the individuals, not the products, who experience the impulse to consume.” This statement led to a redefinition of impulse buying as a sudden and powerful urge that arises within the consumer to buy immediately (Beatty and Ferrell 1998; Rook 1987). Impulsive purchasing was now defined as involving spontaneous and unreflective desires to buy, without thoughtful consideration of why and for what reason a person should have the product.

Luomala (1998) provides support for this in a study of self-gift behavior, arguing that the self-regulation of negative moods through consumption related activities was a “common and integral part of consumers’ lives” (Luomala 1998, 109). Other studies of self-gift behavior and compensatory consumption have also shown that consumption can be used as a device for mood repair.

However their exact effect on the process of impulse buying is still under-investigated. There is also a dearth of research into the effect of companion shoppers and other social effects.

Impulse buying is unreflective for the reason that the purchase is made without any form of consultation or evaluation. This lack of cognitive evaluation and disregard for the consequences of their communication may eventuate in the onset of psychological conflict and struggle. The consequences of the purchase are neglected since the drive behind the purchase is instant gratification as opposed to satisfying utilitarian needs and wants. Impulse buying is immediate because consumers feel an urge to purchase and this desire is felt suddenly, strongly and often irresistibly (Beatty & Ferrell, 1998).

Overall, most studies describe the impulse purchase as a phenomenon that facilitates non-cognitive processes, but unlike unplanned purchases, impulse purchases incorporate the consumers’ impulsive episodes (Rook & Hoch 1985). Therefore, an impulse purchase is more than an unplanned purchase, since it has a hedonic component and the ‘need for touch’ (Peck & Childers 2006; Wood 2005).

The sudden urge to buy on impulse can throw the consumer into a state of psychological disequilibrium. This second feature of impulse buying can cause an individual to feel temporarily out-of-control. There is an extensive literature on the developmental and clinical aspects of impulsivity and impulse control. The ability to voluntarily refuse immediate gratification, to tolerate self-imposed delays of reward, is at the core of most philosophical concept, of “will power”.

Impulsiveness may deteriorate into a destructive character disorder (Kipnis 1977). Individuals with impulsive pathologies “seem to be living in a state of constant but stable chaos (with) little perspective about the future consequences of their current behavior’ (Wishnie 1977).

It is puzzling why people engage in dysfunctional impulsiveness, i.e. opting for smaller short-term rewards instead of holding out for larger long-term rewards. Ainslee (1975) offers three possibilities: a) we succumb to an impulse because we do not understand the consequences of our behavior;

b) we know the consequences are bad but we feel impelled by some “lower” principle (“the devil made me do it”);

c) we know the consequences but place too much weight upon satisfying present desires.

Marketer’s interest towards impulse purchase led to the following researches:

Trade journals frequently note the spectacular sales results achieved through product displays and promotions that are geared specifically to encourage impulse purchases. Two typical examples of successful impulse-oriented marketing report a 400% increase in potato chip, cheese puff, and pretzel sales (Supermarketing Nov. 1977); and a 250% jump in razor blade sales (Supermarketing Jan. 1978).

Bellenger, Robertson and Hirschman (1977) found that almost 40% of consumers’ department store purchases fell into the impulse category, ranging from 27% to 62% of all purchases for each line. Few product lines were unaffected by impulse buying.

Past efforts at defining impulse buying have suffered because they have not incorporated the psychology underlying consumers’ impulsive episodes. A theme dominating most of the work in marketing depicts impulse buying essentially as “unplanned-‘ purchase behavior (Applebaum 1951; Bellenger et al. 1977; Kollat & Willet 1967; Stern 1962). This is an easily observable and operational definition but it is quite limited (Levy 1970). From this perspective, an impulse purchase could be construed as any purchase not written on someone’s shopping list. This definition could be retouched in information processing terms as the difference between “top-down’ (on the list) and bottom-up’ (not on the list) processing (Norman & Bobrow 1975). but this is where the idea of unplanned purchasing breaks down; in most cases cognition involves both conceptually-driven and data-driven processing. It is not accurate or useful to consider all the ‘unplanned’ purchases of a half-gallon of milk, a ten-pound bag of potatoes, or toilet paper as impulsive behavior. Clearly consumers use score layout as an external memory aid so the fact that a purchase is unplanned is neither a sufficient nor necessary (as we shall show) condition for construal as an impulse purchase.

The conceptual framework is based upon Jones et al’s (2003) model of the impulse buying tendency which is applied in the context of SMS services. This model emphasizes the “degree to which an individual is likely to make an unintended, immediate and unreflective purchase”. Jones et al (2003) proposes that consumers with the tendency to shop impulsively are expected to exhibit a high degree of a general tendency to purchase products irrespective of the product category on impulse but within reason. Extending the accepted general trait, their model introduces product-specific impulse buying tendency and product involvement which the current study has adapted. Jones et al (2003) argued that involvement had a positive influence on the product-specific impulse buying tendency. Consumers who are driven to purchase impulsively to pacify strongly generated emotions are triggered by the close proximity of a product of interest (Ruiz & Sicilia, 2004; Sojka & Giese, 1997; Weinberg & Gottwald, 1982). Consequently, consumers who elicit high levels of involvement are very likely to generate the emotions required for buying impulsively. Additionally, highly involved consumers in the context of a specific product category are very likely to actively seek out the product and its respective retailers, which in turn increase the inclination to buy impulsively through the increased frequency of shopping or browsing.


Research Objective

To Study the effects of in store design on impulse purchase of shoppers in hypermarkets

To study the impulse purchase behaviour inside the store

To identify the categories which are most bought through impulse purchase

To establish a relation between type of retail store and quality of impulse purchase

Research Problems

How shoppers move inside a retail store

How in store designing is done keeping in mind the convenience of the customer

How effective is the in store communication in triggering impulse purchase

Does product placement affect their purchase behaviour

How can a retailer increase impulse purchase through in store design

Difference between impulse and unplanned buying

What categories are most bought on impulse

How is store size and feel related to the quality of impulse purchase

Research Methodology

Target group

The target group for the study would be as follows:

Males and females aged between 20-45 years

Belonging to SEC A1, A2 and B1

Shopping enthusiasts

Quantitative Research


Qualitative Research

Depth Interviews


Research City


Information Area

Research Method


Store Designing

Primary & Secondary

Interviews with retailers

Interior design

Shelf placement

Product placement

Customer movement inside the store

Primary & Observation

Interviews with customers and observing their movement in hypermarkets

Customer preferences

Convenience factors

Choice drivers

Effectiveness of POP communication


Interviews with customer and retailer

Medium of communication

Quantity and Quality of POP communication


Buying behaviour of the shopper

Primary & Observation

Questionnaire and interviews

Extent to which they stick to their listed purchases

Effectiveness of look and feel of the store

Avg. amounts willing to spend on impulse purchase

Consumer Segmentation

Primary & Industry Research

Cluster Analysis

Universe Definition

Segmentation on the basis of Demographics, Geographics and Behavioural characteristics

Hypermarket clustering

Primary & Secondary

Cluster Analysis

Various sizes and types of hypermarkets

Sample Size and Split

Total No. of respondents:

Quantitative: 125

Qualitative: 20



Age Group

No. of respondents


























8-10 Hypermarkets/ Supermarkets


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