Impulse buying is an important sales driver for both brick-and-mortar and ecommerce businesses. Impulse buys are different from regular purchases because they happen with no pre-planning. An impulse purchase is made in the spur of the moment and often appeals to a sense of instant gratification in the physical retail world. That feeling is hard to evoke in ecommerce because there's no immediacy involved - shoppers have to wait for a purchase to arrive in the mail whether its planned or not.

There are methods to encourage impulse shopping for ecommerce, however. Research from User Interface Engineering found that offering conditional free shipping and running sales are two effective motivators of online impulse buying. There are many ways to structure your offers and, your websites that will entice customers to make impulse purchases.

Conditional free shipping

Free shipping is a powerful offer, and has been found to hold more relative value for online shoppers than the actual cost of shipping. You can use that to your advantage when structuring a conditional free shipping offer for your ecommerce store. Just calculate your average order value, then set the free shipping threshold somewhere between $5 and $20 above that average. You can further encourage shoppers by suggesting products in a specific price range during checkout to help them meet the threshold.

Sales and promotions

Incentives and special pricing can also help drive impulse purchases. Just as a free shipping threshold can be used to encourage consumers, so can a properly promoted sale or promotion. Just like in physical retail, low-cost products are most often bought on impulse in ecommerce storesAs with any sale, you'll need to properly promote it through multiple channels to effectively drive impulse purchases.

Mobile optimization

A major part of encouraging impulse buying online is making it quick and easy to purchase from your ecommerce store. If someone decides to buy something with no pre-planning, they're much less likely to suffer through a slow or tedious buying process. Make sure your site is streamlined and mobile-optimized to take full advantage of impulse buying behavior.

Superb web design

A study from the journal of the Association for Information Systems found a correlation between impulse shopping and the quality of an ecommerce website's design. Specifically, the higher the perceived quality of design - including subjective elements based on preference and more objective measures like understandability and cohesion - the more likely a shopper is to make an impulse buy. An important finding from the study is that customers can be impacted both positively and negatively by design. While that means some level of personal, subjective perception is in play, overall it was established that high-quality design encourages impulse purchasing.


Bigcommerce is the leading ecommerce platform for growing and mid-market retailers.

Learn more:
1. Visit our commerce blog
2. See our best-in-class features
3. Request a demo


Try Bigcommerce free for 15 days and see what plan is right for you
Start free trial
High-volume or established business? Call for a demo. 1-866-581-4549

Start your free trialHigh-volume or established business? Call for a demo.1-866-581-4549