Research Highlights

New Study Reveals Secrets to Increasing Unplanned Purchases

By Sam Hui, Jeffrey Inman, Yanliu Huang and Jacob Suher
In the first study of its kind, Professor Sam Hui of the NYU Stern School of Business and co-authors, Jeffrey Inman at the University of Pittsburgh's Katz Graduate School of Business, Yanliu Huang at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and Jacob Suher at the University of Texas at Austin, use in-store video tracking to observe grocery shopping from the shopper’s point-of-view.

The researchers use this new data set, in conjunction with an entrance survey of purchase intentions, to study consumer behavior. They found:
  • Unplanned purchases tend to complement planned purchases. For example, a shopper who plans to purchase cheese is more likely to consider an unplanned purchase of sour cream.
  • Products that are on promotion, that are higher in hedonicity (e.g., chocolate) or that need to be refrigerated are more likely to be considered as an unplanned purchase.
  • Shoppers who reference coupons/in-store circulars or interact with the store staff when considering a product that’s not on their shopping list are more likely to purchase the product.
  • Shoppers who stand closer to the shelf are more likely to make unplanned purchases.
  • Promotions are effective in convincing consumers to consider a product, but they do not significantly affect a consumer’s decision to purchase that product.
  • Consumers typically leave room for unplanned purchases in their mental budgets.
“Based on these findings, retailers can employ several strategies to convert shoppers from passive browsers to buyers,” explains Professor Hui. “One tactic is to position categories with high-profit margins closer to the store entrance, so shoppers see the items before their budget for ‘extras’ is depleted. Another strategy for store managers is to distribute store circulars and/or coupons, not only at the entrance, but also at different in-store locations, so that shoppers are more likely to take advantage of them. Offering product samples or highlighting certain store displays that encourage shoppers to stand physically closer to the shelf is another good tactic.”

The paper entitled, "Deconstructing the ‘First Moment of Trust’: Understanding Unplanned Consideration and Purchase Conversation Using In-Store Tracking,” appears in the August issue of the American Marketing Association’s Journal of Marketing Research.