Cyber Monday Impulse Buying

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by: Roger Dooley

Cyber Monday is one of those recent inventions that seems a bit
suspect. Is the Monday after Thanksgiving really the biggest ecommerce
sales day? It looks like Cyber Monday will have to work hard to beat
Black Friday, when reports indicate that shoppers spent over $500 million
online. Just in time for the online sales blitz, Web marketing expert
Gord Hotchkiss has written a thoughtful post on Web impulse buying.
Hotchkiss brings together interesting research on website impulse
buying with some of the neuromarketing/neuroeconomics research on
purchases that we’ve previously cited to suggest a model for ecommerce
impulse buys:

I suspect we
get into shopping “modes” where the parts of the brain associated with
acquisition of a product sustain some activity. We’re prepared to buy,
so the nucleus accumbens kicks into gear and keeps firing. We’re in
“buy” mode. And we’ve accepted that we have budget available. We start
out looking for the product we intended to buy, but, on the way, if we
see something we also decide we need, especially in a related category,
our “buying” mechanism is already activated. We’re already primed to
consider purchase. We’re not looking for a bargain (although finding
one certainly wouldn’t hurt), but by the same token, an outrageous
price would probably shut down the process by kicking in the insula.
Think of the insula as the brain’s sprinkler system, snuffing out any
impulsive sparks before we burn ourselves. As long as the price is
reasonable, and doesn’t introduce significant “pain” we’re more likely
to purchase. [From The Web’s Biggest Impulse Shopping Day.]

Hotchkiss draws on What Causes Customers to Buy on Impulse? by Jared Spool.
This is a short but informative white paper that shows Web shoppers are
far more likely to make impulse purchases when browsing by product
category than when using the site’s search engine. Here’s why Spool
thinks that happens:

Our studies reveal that there
are at least two reasons for this behavior. First, when shoppers used
the category links, they were exposed to more of the site’s product
lines. If users search for a specific product, say DVD players, they
only see DVD players. However, when they click through the hierarchy of
the site, they are seeing the breadth of the products available.

we noticed that when shoppers used the category links, they viewed more
product pages. Only one out of every five shoppers who used a search
engine actually looked at a product page for a potential impulse
purchase. By contrast, almost all the shoppers who used the category
links looked at two or more potential impulse product pages.

too late to redesign an ecommerce site for this year’s Cyber Monday,
but the effectiveness of stimulating impulse buying by making category
browsing easy for users is a good thing to keep in mind – even without
knowing what’s going on in the customer’s nucleus accumbens.

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