Study: People Subconsciously Plan Impulse Buys

A new Baylor University study has found that people subconsciously set aside money for impulse buys when preparing a shopping list. Such “in-store slack” allows consumers to pick up items they may have forgotten to write on the list (or are craving, but didn’t write). The Economic Times has more:

For their study, the researchers questioned shoppers at several grocery stores in Texas. They were asked about the items they planned to purchase, how much they expected to spend on these items and how much they expected their total bill to come to.

After shopping, the volunteers provided their receipts and answered questions about themselves and the experience. The researchers found that more than three-quarters had set aside cash for items that weren’t on their list.

Reasons given for deviating from their shopping list included ‘forgotten needs’ and ‘unplanned wants’ — things they had not realised they would need. Others had actually factored in cash for impulse buys, according to the findings published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Wakefield said: “Highly impulsive individuals may want to consider planning as many purchases in advance as possible.” In other words, those who lack willpower should write very detailed shopping lists. Dieters should also make lists with care, he advised. The researchers also advised supermarkets to try to tempt customers into as many aisles as possible, in an effort to get them to blow their mental budget.

That, and they generally tempt consumers with artful displays of junk food. Marketers have been using in-store slack for decades. It’s interesting to see researchers finally name it.