Impulse shoppers rarely have the time to stand around comparing the fat content, ingredients or calorie count of products. Grab-and-go consumers want convenience and typically opt for familiarity and reliability.
So changing the packaging or launching a new product can be tricky. Products need to jump out at people, especially if they are located away from prime impulse areas such as the front of stores.
Location has bolstered sales of sandwiches; the largest segment within impulse valued at £3.8bn [TNS 52 w/e March 26, 2006]. "One of the factors that has helped the market in retailing has been the move to place sandwiches at the front of the store," says Jim Winship, director of the British Sandwich Association. He says that sales are expected to increase further during annual British Sandwich Week this week (May 14-20).
Heidi Jackson, impulse category manager at Budgens, explains: "Clarity on the fixture is key - shoppers identify colour, then shape, so they need to be able to identify categories by signpost brands such as Cadbury Dairy Milk and Kit Kat."
Retailers employ a host of techniques to improve impulse sales to gain maximum impact and minimise out of stocks. Jackson adds: "A range of premium or niche products merchandised around key brands brings interest to the shopper and allows engagement with the fixture."
To really make an impact, retailers rely on manufacturers to come up with the goods, and collaborative efforts are proving popular, linking impulse categories such as bagged snack baskets located in front of soft drinks chillers.
Targeting early mornings, when workers want to purchase a snack and drink on the move, is a prime opportunity, according to Britvic category director Andrew Marsden. He advises retailers to stock soft drinks such as its new water brand Drench next to snack and newspaper stands to extend the sales opportunity. He also suggests a & 'happy hour' offer to maximise sales of adult snacks and soft drinks during rush hour.
Providing a 'merchandising journey' boosts impulse sales, according to Larraine Riddle of Alvern Media, which places impulse ads on petrol nozzles and specialises in door media for forecourt retailers.
"Impulse shoppers often don't know what they are going to purchase as they walk into a store. But when questioned, three out of five people recall the brand on the petrol nozzle advert as they're leaving," she says. "It makes quite an impact."
The role of merchandising in forecourts is essential, according to Riddle: "Around 45% of forecourt shoppers will consume food or drink purchases right away and 33% will consume purchases in the car."