Impulsive buying behaviour

2 May 2022

Online retail marketing

Are you an impulsive buying consumer ? lets see if the below studies describe you well.

An understanding of the impulsive buying behaviour (IBB) is very important for online retail marketer, findings of correlations between IBB and marketing mix will assist the development of innovations to attract consumers. He (2014) defines IBB as a consumer’s psychological state where temptations and stimulations are higher than his or her self-control. Nowadays consumers can make buying decision and pay with just a few clicks on the computer mouse or the mobile phone’s touch screen. Online shopping is available 24 hours by 7 days, the website quality is increasingly rich in information which facilitate the buying decision process. This is reinforcing the impulsive buying behaviour of consumers to a new high level. 

Xiao & Nicholson’s (2011) study on impulsive buying behaviour (IBB) described that consumers are driven to make buying decisions by three theories; consumption impulsivity, social & cultural factors and individual approach.   

Impulsive spending theories

The first theory - the consumption impulsivity theory posits that consumers make decision based on immediate satisfaction but disregard future consequences, in particular problems such as paying the bill. Impulsivity is the described as the inability to delay the satisfaction of the desire. The implication of this behaviour for retail marketer is to provide the marketing mix of 4Ps (Product, Price, Place, Promotion) that aimed at immediate satisfaction or hedonic benefits. Xiao & Nicholson’s (2011) study on impulsive buying behaviour on consumer service implied that buyers tend to prefer immediate small rewards over larger later rewards or problems.

The second theory - social and cultural factors theory posits that consumers impulsive buying behaviours are learned and developed from the lifespan of individual experience from their social surroundings and cultural influences. In this context, buyers consume the products as an expression of self-identity. That is, individuals who are brought up in a materialistic environment are likely to judge their own success by the number and quality of their possessions. Also individuals tend to act in consistent to their social network. The implication is consumers will follow the social trend of a particular product such as owning the latest model of Apple’s i-phone. And consumers are willing to pay the premium price for the products that provide them social status.  


The third theory - individual approach theory posits that consumers impulsive buying behaviour are driven by the intrinsic motivation of individual. It is associated with the interaction of the external environment and the individual consumer. This theory rejects the explanation posits by impulsivity and social-cultural factors but focus on personal traits on impulsive buying. It argues that individual has varying degree of intrinsic impulsive buying tendency, those who has high degree of impulsivity will be most likely to engage in an impulsive buying act. He (2014) showed that consumers with high degree of impulsiveness will have greater impulsive urge to buy with increasing website quality. The implication of the theory suggested that the marketing mix need to tailored to this specific group of consumers that have high degree of impulsive buying tendency. An example of an effective marketing advertisement would include methods of engagement of immediate sales.

He (2014) wrote a thesis on impulsive buying behaviour of Australian and Chinese consumers, her findings implied that Australian impulsive buying behaviour (IBB) are more stimulated by internal motivation while Chinese IBB are more driven by social influences. According to her explanation based on Hostede’s theory of culture’s consequences that Australians score high on individualism, while Chinese score high on collectivism. Her findings suggested that Australian consumers’ IBB appeared more consistent to the individual approach theory, while the Chinese consumers’ IBB would be more consistent to the social-cultural factors theory. He’s thesis also confirms the factors which influence consumers’ impulsive buying behaviour include gender, income, employment, price, brand, shopping environment, marketing communications and individual motives.


The implication of the findings suggested that IBB are affected by various factors and the relationship can be complex. The complexity provides the framework for marketing practitioners to test their creativity to attract consumers to their marketing campaign. The complexity allows marketing practitioners create the marketing mix to differentiate their marketing mix to stand out from the rest. However, it is obvious the marketing practitioners need to aware of the marketing ethics not to exploit the consumers’ impulsive buying behaviour which lead to over spending situation. Framework of marketing ethics on impulsive buying behaviour should be derived as guidance for marketer putting the IBB findings in practice.   



He, E. (2014), A Comparative Study of In-store and Online Impulsive Purchasing Behaviour (IPB) among Australian & Chinese Consumers by Applying the UTAUT Model, University of Melbourne. Thesis Jun/2014 

Xiao, SH., & Nicholson, M. (2011), Mapping impulse buying: a behaviour analysis framework for services marketing and consumer research. The Service Industries Journal Vol. 31, No. 15, November 2011, 2515–2528.

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Buy now pay later BNPL options have really supported Impulse buying behaviour perhaps to our detriment. Noting I am not an impulse buyer
Pandemic was the worst time for impulsive buying behavior! Between Amazon and eBay, there are so many tempting deals. :P
I reckon a lot of fintech payment companies really try to hone on IBB to convert more sales! Like Afterpay making the same item seem "cheaper" by making it into 4 different installments. These sorts of market practices are great for business, but not good in promoting a good spending culture imo
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