A great majority of Americans make impulse purchases, 84% at some point and 77% in the last three months alone, according to a new survey from CreditCards.com. That’s an increase from the company’s similar poll in 2014, when just 75% said they’d bought something on a whim.
Despite apps and social media that would seem to encourage impulse buys on phones, most impulse buys occur in stores, with 79% doing so, compared to just 6% on mobile devices.
Most impulse purchases are small-bore items, though 54% of consumers polled say they’ve spent $100 or more and 20% say they’ve spent at least $1,000, and nearly half (47%) say they buy for themselves impulsively. Younger people (ages 18 to 29) are more likely to buy for themselves on an impulse (61%) compared to those 30 to 49 who say they buy for a child and those 65 and over who say they buy for a spouse or significant other. But seniors are much less likely to buy on an impluse; 20% of those 65 and older say they never have, and just 8% of those under age 50 say so.
While online and mobile shopping occurs more than ever, even for those heading to stores, impulse buys are increasing and remain a clear advantage for physical stores, this survey shows.
As with so many things, it appears that younger consumers are less able to resist an impulsive purchase.
Store layout and signage—big and bold, with eye-catching colors—can encourage such purchases, as seen in displays at retailers like Forever 21 and Bath and Body Works.
But they can make things difficult for people on a budget, says CreditCards.com senior industry analyst Matt Schulz. Making a budget in the first place and using a shopping list can help shoppers more easily avoid making major unplanned purchases. Small purchases can be fun, though, he says, as long as things don’t get out of hand.
“Impulse buying can be a real adrenaline rush,” Schulz told Retail Dive. “That’s part of why we all love it. But if you’re spending hundreds of dollars at a time on a regular basis, it can really make things difficult, especially if you’re living paycheck to paycheck. Impulse buying is a little like breaking a diet. Don’t beat yourself up over every little slip-up. Just make sure that you don’t go too far off the rails too often.”