The Impulse for Ecommerce, pt. 3: Harnessing Mobile Impulse Buys


Does mobile ecommerce encourage impulsive buying? The short answer is, “Yes!” Almost 1/5th of consumers believe their mobile devices increase their impulse purchases.

Does mobile ecommerce encourage impulsive buying? The short answer is, “Yes!” Almost 1/5th of consumers believe their mobile devices increase their impulse purchases. And since we now know what impulse buying is, have identified who impulse buys most, and how website UX affects impulsive shoppers, let’s examine how smartphones and tablets increase m-commerce conversions by catering to impulse buyers.

The Impulse for Ecommerce, pt. 3: Harnessing Mobile Impulse Buys

More Triggers from M-commerce

For customers using mobile tech, their impulse to buy can be triggered by any experience they might be having with their surroundings or within the actual device, like email promotions or blog reviews. Impulse purchases on mobile still fall into the 4 categories of impulse buying that we examined in Part I—pure, reminder, suggestive, or planned—but on mobile there can be a wide variety of pathways to the same impulse. Ecommerce marketers benefit because m-commerce opens up and connects channels for discovery and buying. So how can we optimize conversion rates for impulse shoppers?

Why Impulse Shoppers Love Mobile

Half of all ecommerce site traffic now comes from mobile users, with 40% from smartphones and 10% from tablets. As stated above, a Rackspace survey found that 17% of consumers believed their mobile devices increased their impulse buying. Respondents cited how simple it was to browse and make a purchase and overall ease of use as the biggest reason for this increase.

Mobile impulse shopping may be strong because customers, now able to shop anywhere, are exposed to more products over time. As we learned in part I, the more products a customer sees, the higher their urge and likelihood to buy.

This is all great news for ecommerce sellers, who can count on a steady natural increase in mobile shopping and unplanned purchases, but only if your site is easy to use. Major sites are turning away from m-dot sites in favor of responsive mobile sites, which are speedy, SEO friendly, content-rich, and adaptive to both smartphones and tablets. Additionally, mobile-optimized menus and checkout processes work to improve mobile engagement and conversion.

Mobile-to-desktop shopping

Even though mobile encompasses half of ecommerce site traffic, shoppers abandon 97% of mobile carts. There are a variety of reasons for this, including security issues (59% of online shoppers are uncomfortable storing credit card information online), usability issues, and slow loading speeds.

So how are mobile shoppers impulse buying so much if they’re abandoning so many carts?

The answer: they browse on mobile and buy on desktop.

Customers use an average of 2.6 devices per transaction, meaning that mobile-to-desktop ecommerce is typical of m-commerce users. Here are a few ways to promote this type of buying:

  • Structure your mobile design for fast, easy browsing and navigation
  • Use category links and speedy search to give direction to impulse shoppers
  • Provide detailed product information and viewing on mobile
  • Make it easy to save items in an online cart/wish list, and finish the purchase on desktop (abandoned cart reminder emails also help bridge the gap)

Informed Impulse Buying—the Happy Medium?

Lastly, let’s consider mobile impulse purchases made in-store. Often, shoppers look on ecommerce sites while browsing in-store for research purposes. In fact, 62% of mobile shoppers say they perceive info gathered on mobile as more beneficial than in-store promotional literature.

For these customers who browse and buy on mobile while inside a store (in your store or a competitor’s store), mobile bridges the gap between exhaustive product research and impulse buying. Whether they are using your store as a showroom, checking your competitor’s prices, reading product reviews and ratings, or checking for out-of-stock items online, your ecommerce site should be prepared to answer all of their questions quickly: these are customers who want to buy now but get a great deal and product at the same time. Include a ratings and review section on each product page to help these m-commerce shoppers make an informed decision, and display exclusive offers like free shipping to assure them of the best possible price when the impulse buy.

Series Recap

To sum up what we learned in this series:

  • There are 4 main types of impulse buys – pure, reminder, suggestive, and planned
  • The more products and promotions a customer sees, the more likely they will buy on impulse
  • Category links and fast search encourage browsing for unplanned purchases
  • Impulse buyers love high quality websites and m-commerce
  • Appeal to customers’ impulses post-purchase, both online and in-store
  • Ecommerce and m-commerce allow consumers to make better-informed impulse decisions
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