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An impulse purchase or impulse buying is an unplanned decision to buy a product or service, made just before a purchase. One who tends to make such purchases is referred to as an impulse purchaser or impulse buyer. Research findings suggest that emotions and
Marketers and retailers tend to exploit these impulses which are tied to the basic want for instant gratification. For example, a shopper in a supermarket might not specifically be shopping for confectionery. However,
Impulse buying can also extend to more expensive items such as automobiles, couches, and home appliances. Automobiles in particular are as much an emotional purchase as a rational one.[
Impulse buying disrupts the normal decision making models in consumers' brains. The logical sequence of the consumers' actions is replaced with an irrational moment of self gratification. Impulse items appeal to the emotional side of consumers. Some items bought on impulse are not considered functional or necessary in the consumers' lives. Preventing impulse buying involves techniques such as setting budgets before shopping and taking time out before the Purchase is made.
A study published in the June 2008 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research suggests that consumers are more susceptible to making impulsive purchases for one brand over another if they are distracted while shopping. In the study, Central Michigan University Psychology professor Bryan Gibson surveyed college students by measuring their preference for a variety of soft drinks, including Coke and Pepsi. Results of Gibson's study found that implicit attitudes, or those that people may not be conscious of and able to verbally express, predicted product choice only when participants were presented with a cognitive task, suggesting that implicit product attitudes may play a greater role in product choice when the consumer is distracted or making an impulse purchase.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia and the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business found that impulse spending is a behavior associated with disorganized environments. The study concluded that being surrounded by chaos impairs a person's ability to perform other tasks requiring ‘brain’ power, which results in a threat to a person's sense of personal control.