Impulse buying

Introduction Impulsive buying behavior is seen as a sudden, spontaneous act which precludes thoughtful, consideration of all available information and choice alternatives (Bayley & Nancorrow, 1998; Rook 1987; Thompson, Locander, & Pollio, 1990; Weinberg & Gottwald, 1982). It is “an unplanned purchase” characterized by (1) “relatively rapid decision-making, and (2) a subjective bias in favor of immediate possession” (Rook & Gardner, 1993, p. 3).
It is described as more arousing, unintended, less deliberate, and more irresistible than is planned buying behavior. Researchers agree that impulsive buying occurs when an individual makes an unintended, unreflective, and immediate purchase (Rook, 1987; Rook & Fisher, 1995; Rook & Hoch, 1985). Impulsive buyers are likely to be unreflective in their thinking, to be emotionally attracted to the object, and to desire immediate gratification (Hoch & Loewenstein, 1991; Thompson et al. , 1990).
Researchers have found that many factors influence impulsive buying: the consumer’s mood (Donovan, Rossiter, Marcooly, ; Nesdale, 1994; Rook, 1987; Rook ; Gardner, 1993; Weinberg ; Gottwald, 1982), normative evaluation of the appropriateness of engaging in impulse buying (Rook ; Fisher, 1995), self-identity (Dittmar et al. , 1995), age, pocket money available, gender (e. g. , Bellenger, Robertson ; Hirschman, 1978; Wood, 1998), and cultural influences (Kacen ; Lee, 2002 in Chien-Huang Lin, Shin-Chieh Chuang, 2005).

Historically, a limited form of the marketing concept has been more typical of wholesale and retail organizations. Antique retailing manuals emphasize the role of the retailer as the “purchasing agent” for his customers (in effect, his Job is to buy what they want), and there is a hoary retailing maxim that “merchandise well bought is half sold. ” The traditional implementation of this guideline, however, was limited to selecting the most nearly satisfactory merchandise from the alternatives available.
In its modern extension, the marketing concept leads final-goods sellers to reach back to wholesaling and production levels, and producers to reach forward toward final purchasers and users, in order to alter both the range of available alternatives and the way in which they are presented and recognized in the market. The above reference to the characteristics of potential buyers as the focal point of marketing analysis in the firm was precise, not casual. We refer to “buyers,” not “consumers,” because, even within a household, goods and services may be purchased by one individual for use by another.
Further, household consumers are only one group of final-goods users, and final-consumer goods purchases may be strongly affected by the activities of reseller buyers and other marketing intermediaries. We refer to “potential” buyers, not simply actual purchasers, because we are concerned with conditions under which present purchasers might choose different amounts or qualities of merchandise, and also with conditions that would lead to purchases by others who are not now active customers.
If a firm or group of firms is making any sales, its products and services must be already adapted, to some extent, to the characteristics of its present customers. Its innovative effort, however, may be devoted to anticipating changes in these customers’ behavior and in finding ways to reach new groups of potential buyers. We also refer to the “characteristics” of buyers rather than to the more familiar terms “needs” and “wants. ” Many words have been expended in argument over whether people have been “made to want” certain items as a result of advertising, salesmanship, and other marketing efforts.
Academic discussions of needs generally begin by listing certain basic physical and psychological requirements of human life, including food and drink, shelter, sex, and social relationships. Although the desire to satisfy these needs accounts for some fundamental aspects of human behavior, the list does not go very far in explaining the behavior of buyers and potential buyers in modern markets because these needs are so highly generalized and are satisfied to varying degrees in so many different ways.
For the purposes of demand analysis, it is more useful to think of needs as gaps between an existing state of being and a desired state. A manufacturing firm may need materials and equipment for the production process; a distributor may need supplies in order to make sales; and a household many need nourishment, health, entertainment, or transportation services. For most people, even those in relatively poor countries, these needs are only distantly connected with the basic requirements of survival.
Even in primitive societies, only minimal food and shelter requirements may be met before “needs” develop for ornaments, ritual equipment, and other sources of social-psychological satisfaction. The point here is that market demand for major groups of products and services, as well as for particular items and brands, is derived from the recognized needs of organizations and individuals, and not — with very rare exceptions — from essential biological requirements or universally applicable standards or goals.
A further point is that social-psychological needs are not new or strange phenomena invented by modern advertising. These needs are as old as human culture, although the variety of ways available for meeting them is probably greater in present-day developed countries than at any other time in the history of mankind. If needs, then, are gaps between existing and desired states of being, wants may be defined as potential gap fillers. Wants are the goods and services desired to meet particular needs by some available product or service.
However, it is the flow of services and satisfactions, including the satisfaction of possession that constitutes the need. The product or the service itself is wanted to meet this need. The availability of products and services, and of information about them, contributes to both the recognition of needs and the specification of wants. For example, we may not be conscious of a gap between existing and desired situations until some means of substantially narrowing the gap comes to our attention.
Then the light dawns: “That’s what I need! ” The need is recognized and simultaneously focused on a particular want that will meet it. For the most part, however, needs are not instantaneously and permanently focused on specific wants. On the contrary, particular needs come to be focused on specific wants through a gradual process of cultural imitation, education, taste development, and broad social-psychological change. Retailers apparently did not expect impulse buying to be an outcome of self-service.
Yet merchants were quick to observe that the introduction of self-service into their shops increased profits beyond any level that could be accounted for simply by the cost reduction in wages. Impulse buying became a point in favor of introducing self-service widely into the industry. The importance of the layout in controlling the behavior of the customer, including increasing impulse buying as much as possible without increasing costly customer returns, became a serious concern to marketing experts. Self-service was therefore not merely a cheaper process than using clerk labor but a way to increase consumption.
Retailers in trade journals considered the best way to get the customer to move through the store, what kinds of displays would provoke the most impulse buying, and what kinds of advertising would bring customers used to clerk-service into self-service shops. A much more common and relatively more feasible purpose of marketing effort is to focus recognized needs on specific wants. As needs lead to wants, potential buyers become conscious that the gaps between their existing and desired states of being can be reduced if particular gap fillers are obtained.
The first step in changing needs into wants may be to determine the kind of product or service desired — that is, metal rather than wood for processing, a house rather than an apartment for residence. We may describe these as generic wants, which means that the general class (genus or genre) of product or service is identified but not the individual item. The second step is the identification of the specific qualities desired (performance features, style, location, etc. ), and, finally, the specific item or service itself.

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