Impulsively planned: A new paradigm of shopping behaviour in the digital era

A point of view on the impulsively planned purchases authored by Ramesh Redekar, service line leader - brand health tracking at Ipsos in UAE, and Mahmoud Shammout, head of research, and insights at TikTok METAP

A point of view on the impulsively planned purchases authored by Ramesh Redekar, service line leader – brand health tracking at Ipsos in UAE, and Mahmoud Shammout, head of research, and insights at TikTok METAP

We live in an age of instant gratification, always seeking products and experiences that grant us immediate satisfaction and fulfil an emotional need. Like the perfect pair of shoes for tomorrow’s dinner, that ‘must-have’ gadget for home, or the hair mask you didn’t even know you needed.

Also, it’s not just wanting something. It’s wanting it now. Shoppers are not just in a constant state of discovery, they’re also seeking the fastest modes of delivery; trying to diminish the window between purchase and possession.

Unsurprisingly, impulse buying is on the rise. Shoppers frequently go beyond planned buying budgets on a whim. 54% of Impulse purchases are generally classified as wants and not needs [1], which indicates that people no longer plan their shopping trips; they’re constantly shopping. So, it is imperative for brands and marketers to understand and adapt to this paradigm shift in buying behavior.

What triggers impulsive shopping in the digital era

Big malls and multi-level shopping centres were the initial drivers of impulse purchases. Marketers used tactics like artfully designed display windows, unbelievable discounts and product trial counters to stimulate consumers senses and ushered in the era of increased impulse purchases.

Today, we live in a world where we are one click away from anything we want. Retail e-commerce sales worldwide reached nearly $5.2 trillion in 2021 and are likely to touch $8.1 trillion by 2026. [1] The e-commerce market in MENAT alone is expected to grow to $94bn by 2024.[2]

The spectacular rise of e-commerce in the last decade continues to spur the trends we’re seeing in impulse buying behavior online.

Through always-on accessibility

The e-commerce market was in good shape even before the pandemic spiked e-shopping figures across countries. While shopping malls are open again, consumers seem to have retained their propensity for spending time on apps and their preference for online buying. E-commerce market expected to touch $16 Bn by 2024 in UAE.

Constant conversation

While purchase decisions continue to be influenced by friends, family, and the wider community, easy and instant access to their opinions, perspectives, and recommendations fuel the need for instant gratification.

People worldwide are also tuning in to content creators and community members on digital channels every hour of every day. Often these sessions act as springboards for their purchase journeys. TikTok content creators have a critical role to play in product choices. They have a strong influence across all stages of the purchase funnel -> Awareness (79 per cent), Consideration (75 per cent) and Purchase (67 per cent) [2]

And targeted promotions

The Brand Shopping Triggers research conducted by Ipsos (2022) identified 15 key shopping triggers that motivate people’s purchase decisions. Along with usual suspects like limited time offers and promotions, FOMO, keeping up with trends, being inspired, and exploring emerged as key shopping triggers. Digital content consumption, especially in easy-to-consume formats like short videos, significantly impacts these.

Among digital entertainment channels, TikTok is revolutionizing the concept of impulse purchases like never before. This is driven by continuous content consumption and engagement. The impact will continue to be deep since it successfully hits the core of the consumer’s spirit and emotional well-being.

This behavioural shift in shopping patterns opens up new opportunities for brands. Let’s look at how marketers can tap into this growing trend and expand the brands bottom-line.

People no longer go shopping, they are always shopping

Historically, marketers tapped into the dynamics of impulse shopping by being available at the point of purchase “when the consumers are ready to transact.” Today, it’s equally important to be mentally available when consumers are constantly in a state of discovery for services/products. So how can brands and marketers leverage impulsive shopping behaviour to its full potential?

Content: It starts with engaging storytelling

Consumers want brands to create experiences and campaigns that make users feel good. Feelings of adventure, of purpose, of self-worth bring joy and inspiration to them. So, when you switch your communication from stories, you connect with your audience across the user journey. 67 per cent TikTok users are inspired by content leading to higher spends [1].

Communities: Shoppers seek social guidance from others before committing to a purchase

Many of us need one final reassurance before committing to a purchase, particularly in MENAT. A need that is more prevalent than ever before. That’s why a community is superior to a following. And the community is at the heart of the purchase experience on platforms like TikTok, providing guidance through reviews and recommendations and inspiring the confidence to ‘buy.’ 61 per cent of TikTok users claim to have been inspired by the TikTok community to make a purchase [1].

Creators: People trust other people

Content creators are a great way for brands to tell their story authentically, opening the door for meaningful engagement with audiences. Content created by real, like-minded individuals is increasingly driving what consumers consider and buy today. Unlike influencers on other platforms, who are typically famous, associated with a bandwagon of collaborations, and driven by the need to influence decisions, content creators on TikTok are considered more creative, passionate and, most importantly, authentic. According to Ipsos’ research on the Power of TikTok Content Creators 2021 [2], their content makes people happy (65 per cent), and they are viewed as authentic (82 per cent).

Consequently, the unique content created by this new breed of content creators triggers more passionate engagement from the larger community and fosters a higher likelihood of driving impulse purchases. TikTok’s differentiated approach to content creators has cracked the code of long-term engagement for both creators and brands. TikTok creator-led campaigns were 2.7x more memorable than traditional advertising, and TikTok content creators persuaded two of every three individuals to make a purchase [2].

Welcome to the new age of impulse driven always-on commerce

It’s time for marketers to re-evaluate their marketing strategies to tap into this game-changing trend and stay top of mind, and digital channels like TikTok hold the key to this world of new opportunities. Its immersive experience allows communities to come together to share and create, as well as inspire others to co-create content themselves. This allows brands to engage with these audiences, delivering deeper connections not only during key shopping occasions but throughout the year.

TikTok Works beyond mental availability. The platform doesn’t only drive higher mind-share (2.4x higher impact on brand awareness than other digital channels), it also delivers across the purchase funnel with 3.2x Return On Ad Spend vs total media [3].

It’s the brands’ opportunity to unlock the full potential of impulse purchases and ultimately lead to higher spending.

[1] Unravelling shopping triggers study conducted by Ipsos in UAE, KSA, and Turkey
[2] Power of content creators study designed & executed by Ipsos in UAE, KSA, Turkey and Egypt
[3] TikTok Marketing Science X-Media META Analysis – MENAT