The Relationship between Omnichannel and Unplanned Purchases
Thursday, November 15, 2018

The True Story of the Relationship Between Omnichannel and Unplanned Purchases

Who is pregnant? Who is divorcing? Who had not one but two alien sightings and is now a psychic for dogs? Long before the internet and the endless social media feeds, there were tabloids along the checkout aisle to answer all of these big questions for us. These fantastical tales of fiction entertained us while we waited to pay for our shopping. And when it was finally our turn, we bought these magazines. Along with the gum and candy bars that were also tantalizingly within reach. What did all of these checkout lane items have in common (other than being completely delectable)? They were all unplanned purchases.

Were Unplanned Purchases Really Abducted by Aliens?

40% of consumers spend more money than planned in store, while only 25% reported online impulse shopping

With the rise of e-commerce, retailers were concerned that profits from unplanned purchases, not only the tabloids and chocolate bars, would disappear. But according to a survey by, 5 out of 6 people admit to making impulse buys. These take place most commonly in person. And this number is on the rise. In a similar poll conducted by in 2014, 75% of respondents claimed to shop impulsively compared to 84% in the new poll.

With over 90% of purchases still being made within a physical store, retailers do not have to worry about impulse buys along the checkout line being abducted by aliens. But they do need to concern themselves with how to facilitate impulse buys along every step of the customer journey.

Omnichannel Gives Birth to Multiple Unplanned Purchases

Not unlike a page ripped from the checkout lane tabloids, omnichannel has given rise to more unplanned purchases for retailers. Rather than create fewer opportunities for impulse buys, omnichannel presents multiple chances for retailers to encourage unplanned purchases throughout the customer buying journey. From the e-commerce site, to mobile, to in-store digital touchpoints. Customers now have the opportunity to make unplanned purchases wherever they are shopping and checking out.

How can retailers further enable these impulse buys? On average Superconsumers pend approximately $40 on unplanned purchases

  • Pick the best products. Knowing your customers and the particular needs that this group has will allow you to strategically place items. For example, at Sephora, sample-size products tempt customers at checkout points.
  • Grab attention. Tabloid headlines are written for one purpose only – to grab the attention of readers. They don’t always tell the truth, but they certainly are entertaining and eye-catching. Retailers can use headlines as well. But rather than stories of pregnancy or affairs; bold signage can help draw the attention of customers at checkout.
  • Be smart about product placement. There’s a reason why tabloids and chocolate bars do so well in a line full of people who are exhausted from shopping, and probably hungry. With the same thought to product placement along other omnichannel routes, use the data you have available to make specific items available where and when your customers are going to be. Anticipating and understanding the needs and wants of customers is the name of the omnichannel game. And those retailers who are able to master this will be sure to thrive.

Unplanned Purchases Brought Back From the Dead

It was touch and go there for a little while. But as more and more retailers learn of the benefits of omnichannel, specifically click and collect, unplanned purchases are once again alive and well. Psychology tells us that the unconscious mind drives much of consumer behaviour. With some help from clever omnichannel retailers who understand how to tap into this unconscious mind, unplanned purchases will never die. Just like Elvis, who apparently is still living in a small town in Minnesota if you believe everything you read.



Carla van Deventer

Carla van Deventer is Marketing Coordinator at OrderDynamics. A life-long love of reading, technology and solving puzzles helps her navigate the retail technology marketing world.