Impulse goods – definition and examples

Impulse goods are products that people buy on impulse, i.e., without planning to do so. Retailers commonly place these items near the checkout counters of supermarkets, filling stations, and other retail outlets. Products such as chocolate, snacks, chewing gum, and candy, for example, are impulse goods.

Impulse buyers or impulse purchasers are people who buy or decide to buy things on the spur of the moment.

We refer to the act of suddenly deciding to buy something and acting on that desire impulse buying. We also call it an impulse purchase.

Impulse goods play on people’s feelings and emotions. In other words, people do not buy them as a result of logical and strategic thinking, but because of something they feel. says the following regarding the term:

“Impulse goods are those which entice or tempt a customer instantly and the customer simply goes ahead and purchases the product without any research or without thinking.”

Impulse goods
According to Wikipedia: “Impulse buying disrupts the normal decision-making models in consumers’ brains. The logical sequence of the consumers’ actions is replaced with an irrational moment of self-gratification.”

Essential, emergency, and impulse goods

Impulse goods contrast with essential goods or staple goods. Essential goods are those we need and that we usually purchase because we had planned to.

Bread, eggs, soap, toothpaste, and soap, for example, are essential goods. They are not goods that the consumer decides to purchase on the spur of the moment.

Any product that represents a dominant portion of our diets is a staple good.

Convenience stores sell staple goods alongside impulse goods and emergency goods.

Flashlights, candles, and umbrellas, for example, are emergency goods. We buy them when we suddenly or desperately need them, i.e., in an emergency.

We need candles when there is a blackout. If I get caught out in the rain, an umbrella suddenly becomes an emergency good for me.

Impulse goods and marketers

Marketers exploit our desire for instant gratification with products that they know trigger our impulse buying instincts.

Those instincts, if they can manipulate them successfully, help boost their company’s revenue. Revenue is the income a business makes from the sale of goods or services.

Sellers of chocolate, candy, mints, and chewing gum make a significant proportion of their sales from impulse buying.

Marketers place impulse goods strategically, usually at checkout aisles in supermarkets. They also place them near the cash tills at 24×7 stores and filling stations.

They know that many adults go shopping with their backup impulse buyers, i.e., their children. Nobody’s desire for instant gratification is as strong as a child’s. Therefore, they often place those goods lower down, i.e., at a child’s eye level.

Online shopping

As online shopping grows, will the sale of impulse goods decline? Online shopping means purchasing things on the Internet.

When we are shopping for our groceries online, we are not standing at the checkout aisle when it is time to pay.

Perhaps marketers will find a way to manipulate our emotions and feelings when we shop online.