What Drives Impulse Food & Beverage Purchases Online and Offline?

August 25, 2022

Inflation is changing Americans’ spending habits, and Ipsos reports, via a survey conducted in June, that 56% of adults in the US had reduced the number of food and beverage impulse purchases over the previous month.

Even so, 61% of respondents reported having made an impulse food or beverage purchase in a physical store within the previous month, a figure rising to 69% of Gen Zers. Respondents from this young generation were also more likely than the general population to say that in the past month they had made an impulse food and beverage purchase in a restaurant (47% vs. 34%) and online (47% vs. 24%).

To explore more deeply what’s behind impulse purchases, Ipsos asked adults what motivated them to make their most recent impulse purchase, in-store or online. The results indicate that the purchases are “driven by emotion and function.”

As such, there were 2 leading reasons for impulse purchases online, per respondents: the price being too good to pass up (34%), and a desire to treat themselves (34%). This latter, more emotional driver, was cited by almost half (47%) of Gen Z respondents.

Other reasons for recent impulse purchases online included something looking too good to pass up (29%), an item having been on the respondent’s mind to get one (23%), and the product being very easy to buy (20%). By comparison, few said they were driven by boredom (8%) or a recommendation by a celebrity or influencer (5%).

As for in-store impulse purchases, a desire to treat oneself (37%) was at the top of the list, once again cited by a higher portion of Gen Z respondents (45%). This appears to be a slightly bigger driver of impulse purchases offline than online.

The price being too good to pass up was also a key driver for recent in-store impulse buys (33%), followed by something looking too good to pass up (25%).

For respondents’ most recent in-store impulse purchase, the item was most commonly seen in the aisle where it is normally found (38% share), though others decided to buy it when seeing it on a display (17%). About 1 in 10 made their impulse buy when seeing the item in a special aisle or bin of sale (11%) or at check-out (10%).

For more on impulse buys, check out Ipsos’ data here.

About the Data: The results are based on a Food & Beverage survey conducted June 8-9 among 1,000 adults in the US and from a survey of 1,005 US adults conducted in February.

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