We’re all too familiar with waiting in line at a register and being swayed to add a sugary treat to our cart by the tempting display next to the tabloid magazines. Candy companies have figured out how to catch your eye and encourage impulse buying in stores but as consumers are shifting more to online shopping, how can impulse candy purchases survive in a digital environment? A recent article in CNN Business shared ideas that confectioner Hershey’s is employing to combat the online checkout dilemma when it comes to impulse purchases.
What is it about the online shopping experience that discourages the impulse buy?
Dan Ariely, Duke University professor of psychology and behavioral economics expert, warns, “Standard physical shopping has emotions that cannot be replicated online," Ariely said; "the online environment plays against the regular impulse buying, because traditional impulse purchases are driven by a reaction to a physical object you encounter unintentionally.”
Another limitation of online impulse buying is that it does not allow the immediate gratification of in-person impulse buying, which makes it less tempting.
Typically, in-person shoppers succumb to impulse buys 3 to 4 times a year. In the article Doug Straton, Hershey's chief digital commerce officer said, "If we can get on the [shopping] list and then remind people that these things are not any longer in their pantry, then we can get the repeat purchases."
Any strategy to “nudge” impulse buys in online rely on providing an offer near checkout when shoppers tend to show less self-control as is exhibited by their in-store behavior.
Hershey’s is hoping that they can encourage online impulse shopping even just one time per year but with packs instead of individual candy bars.
By applying PRS IN VIVO’s Nudge Marketing and Drivers of Influence, we can see what tactics Hershey’s experimenting with:
1. Emotion: Creating the same sense of time pressure with online checkouts
With this strategy, e-tailers such as Amazon might recommend a Hershey’s product after shoppers have already placed their order and are about to check out. During the checkout process, a countdown clock might appear that allows consumers to add a Hershey product to their cart within that time limit. This is one possible way to digitally create the sense of urgency to make a decision quickly as shoppers would feel in store as the line is moving closer to the cashier.
2. Incentives: Utilizing minimum costs needed for free shipping
Online retailers often set free shipping as a perk once a minimum order is reached. But often consumers find their digital shopping cart just shy of the threshold to free shipping. Brands like Hershey’s that are often part of the impulse buy in the checkout line, might offer the “top up” to get the shopper to their goal.
The article quotes Ravi Dhar, director of the Center for Customer Insights at the Yale School of Management, that an indulgent treat is an effective way to get people to their shopping cart goal.
"People are willing to buy chocolates and things like that if it means free shipping," Dhar said. They're less willing to add a healthy item, like broccoli, he said.
3. Framing: Suggesting products to round out a recipe
If the cart already contains common baking ingredients such as eggs, butter, and flour, Hershey’s might work with their retailer to make a recommendation for Hershey’s chocolate chips to round out their shopping list.
Consumer brands have historically had to engineer and influence the merchandising and retail space planning in grocery brick and mortar stores. These new tactics will require collaboration with online retailers. But increased sales benefit everybody, and results will encourage adoption.
So far, Hershey’s is attributing a boost in e-commerce sales from May to July increasing 30% compared to the previous quarter to strategies like these. We can bet that they will continue to come up with some pretty sweet ideas to influence shopper behavior and drive impulse buys.
Jaclyn Williams is a Project Director at PRS IN VIVO and has been with the company for over 4 years. She received a Bachelor’s in Marketing from University of Connecticut. Within a year, she has worked in the New Jersey, Paris, and Shanghai offices making her the PRS IN VIVO globetrotter known for her #JackiesJourneys posts. Jackie now resides in Manhattan where she is the Monica to her roommate’s Rachel and looking for her next big adventure.