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The Evolution of the Impluse Buy

It’s hard to be a savvy consumer in the digital age.

Have you ever grabbed a candy bar on the way out of a grocery store?  What about a pack of gum, or a celebrity gossip magazine?  Maybe you snagged a USB port that looked like a piece of sushi while you were walking out of Best Buy?  Is expert placement from a savvy merchandiser responsible for the acquisition of a wallet or a pair of earrings while you checked out at J Crew?

My answer to all of these questions is yes, but I don’t exactly have a reputation as the worst wisest consumer.  Even if you answered no to all of those questions, you might not be impervious to the impulse buy.  How many $.99 charges pop up on the monthly bill for the credit card you have tied to your Apple account?  Do you subscribe to Netflix, Spotify, HBOGO, Amazon Prime, or online periodicals like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal?

Again, my answer to all these questions is yes. (I cancelled my Amazon Prime subscription a couple weeks ago, and felt a little better about myself, but now it takes FOREVER to get a book delivered.  I can’t win with those people…) In this Bits Blog from The New York Times, Nick Bilton adds up his yearly digital media expenditures and realizes that in 2012, he spent $2,403.

I don’t care to add up my digital media expenditures for the last calendar year.  Mr. Bilton rationalized the money he spent by saying he didn’t subscribe to cable, and he didn’t go see movies.  I subscribe to everything that the author subscribed to last year.  I also have premium cable, and try to see everything in theaters.  If you factor in e-tail purchases and cell phone applications, I think it would be fair to triple Mr. Bilton’s figure to ballpark my digital media expenditures in 2012.

As a business owner, the tripled figure should be important to you, because I would not call my spending preferences atypical amongst my peers, (the 20-something male with 9-5 job demographic).  My friends aren’t buying candy bars on our way out of Albertsons because we’re playing on our phones.  None of us see print advertising, because we get all of our news (ALL OF OUR NEWS) from the internet.

If you own a small business, use this information.  If you’re selling an impulse buy, find a way to get it on a screen, ASAP.  If you’re targeting younger consumers, pull your print advertising, and start advertising online, even if you’re not selling an impulse buy.  When you buy online advertising, make sure you know if your ad is going to be on a website, the mobile version of website, or both.  If you have to choose between an online platform and a mobile platform, make your decision based on the traffic for your target demographic, not overall traffic.

Develop an app.  Even if your business has nothing to do with any sort of technology, find a way to develop an application.  If current trends are any indication, retailing, or at least retailing as we know it is soon to be a thing of the past.  You can’t fight the future…

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