Disadvantages of impulse buying: 3 limitations of purchases made on impulse

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A lot of purchases are impulse buys – purchases made in the moment with no advance consideration. These are the items that you are browsing, may never have heard of, or intended to buy before, and suddenly you have placed them in your cart and ordered. While impulse buys are a significant sales opportunity – and many sales are designed specifically to encourage impulse buys – there are some disadvantages of impulse sales that it is important to be aware of. 

Disadvantage 1: Purchases may be more likely to be returned

The first disadvantage of impulse buys is that, given they are made in the moment without much thought, they be more likely to be returned once the purchaser has thought more about it. Buyer’s remorse may set in, where the purchase regrets the item that they have bought, resulting in it being returned to the store.

There are lots of costs associated with returned items – including the shipping cost of returning the purchase, time taken to inspect the item on the return, and any stock write-offs for goods that can’t be easily repackaged and sold. 

Disadvantage 2: Purchasers may not know what they are buying - potentially increasing support requests

Another limitation of impulse buys is that the customer purchasing the item may not know as much about how to use and service the product as customers who have more carefully considered their purchases. There can be higher costs associated with supporting such users, that may not be as experienced, or have different expectations, relative to customers who have given more careful consideration to the purchases. 

Disadvantage 3: Impulse purchases may not be as rated as highly

A final limitation of impulse buys is that they may not be rated as highly by customers that did not really realize what they were buying. Reviews where the purchaser complains about a particular attribute clearly described in the item description is indicative of an impulse buy, made without the purchaser doing basic research on the item.

Final thoughts: Consider your customer base

While the opportunities presented by impulse buys can seem irresistible, it is important to at least be aware of limitations when considering the extent to which encouraging such purchases should form part of your sales approach. Maybe especially for products involving continuing repeat purchases (such as in the razor-razorblade sales approach), gaining a loyal customer base may be more important than quickly signing up a lot of customers on impulse buys, only for a large proportion of those customers not to continue with subsequent purchases. 

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