4 Ways Small Business Retailers Can Encourage Impulse Buying In-Store

Picture this: A customer walks into your store with a shopping list in hand, determined to get in and get out with only the essentials. Then, as they enter through the door, a gust of wind carries them toward a conveniently-placed display full of products made seemingly for them. 

Soothing music from the speakers reaches their ears, improving their mood. A bestseller sign on the display catches their eye. “Oh, this would be so handy to have in the car,” they think to themself. Into the basket it goes. 

These moments that spark must-have desire are a significant reason why many customers still prefer to shop in person

With a little inspiration from big-box retailers, who have invested millions into studying how to trigger impulse transactions, we’ve identified 4 Ways Small Business Retailers Can Encourage Impulse Buying In-Store. 

Follow these strategies to improve your bottom line and encourage unplanned purchases. 

Choose the right impulse buy products

A mark of excellent customer service is being able to anticipate customer needs. 

For example, if a server comes by to fill your empty cup before you have a chance to ask for a refill, you’d probably think, “Wow, how did they know I needed that? I was just about to ask.”  That’s great service.

Choosing the right products to use as impulse buys requires similar foresight. Consider placing impulse buys that are inexpensive, small, and convenient near the point of sale. 

Items listed in the Wish Wholesale POS Essentials collection are easy upsells that someone might remember needing at the last minute.

point of sale essentials on Wish Wholesale

Even if you don’t run a convenience store, you can still custom curate a selection of impulse buys relevant to your business. For example, have you noticed that USPS always asks if you want to purchase stamps when you pay to ship a package? They also carry tape and shipping supplies at the front of their drop-off locations. 

Placing impulse items in locations where shoppers tend to dwell is compassionate and advantageous. Customers will feel like you know them, and what they need, before knowing it themselves. 

Display impulse buys strategically

When a customer is in the store, it takes minimal convincing to get them to purchase something. 

You can capitalize on the hard work you did to get them in the store by making additional items hard to avoid, so they take more time to consider purchasing things they didn’t plan on going home with.

Here are a few simple ways to make sure displayed impulse buys are mulled over:

  • Add a flashy sign with urgent messaging on it
  • Place related products near bestsellers
  • Incorporate social proof indicating “staff favorite” items
  • Place items in spaces where they’ll stand out, like end caps 
  • Place more expensive products at eye-level

The strategies above could make the difference between a customer skipping it or needing to add it to their cart.  

Make visiting a good experience

Brick-and-mortar retailers have a unique competitive advantage over online stores. Online stores offer flexibility, but it’s close to impossible for them to replicate the in-store experience.  Shoppers love browsing stores is because it feels like an activity or a treat. 

Giving them an experience to look forward to, like trying food samples at Costco or getting an hour of childcare at Ikea Småland, reinforces trust and puts customers in the mood to buy things.  

Although childcare is a stretch for most retailers, you can improve the shopping experience in your own store by:

  • Hosting product demonstrations 
  • Incorporating an activity to keep kids occupied, like Trader Joe’s
  • Providing a safe space to shop by enforcing mask regulations
  • Investing in employee-customer interaction training
  • Offering self-checkout to reduce waiting times
  • Offering in-store only discounts

Create a predetermined path for customers

There’s a reason why museums make visitors exit through the gift shop… and also why you suddenly feel like you could eat by the time you get through an Ikea showroom. 

Mapping out predetermined paths for customers to follow allows shoppers to discover what’s been laid out for them to browse. 

Although Costco is infamous for its ever-changing layout and unlabeled aisles, its popular features like produce and deli are always placed near the back of the store. This way, members are required to “do a lap” through non-essential items before reaching their household staples.  

Compared to Costco, Target has carefully mapped floor plans that seem intuitive. Target is also known for placing seasonal or trending items near the entry point of the store ensures customers are intrigued after only a few seconds of entering the store. This makes it easy for shoppers to navigate and browse, so each trip an enjoyable shopping experience.  

Maximize the path your customers take by incorporating a few of these strategies:

  • Follow a looping floor plan that leads customers around the store
  • Place impulse buys near the checkout or entry, as lower-priced items take less consideration
  • Feature high-visibility displays to block paths occasionally and slow down essentials-only shoppers

By keeping customers browsing your offerings, they’ll feel more compelled to look beyond their grocery list and treat themselves to an unplanned purchase. 


Creating interactions that can lead to impulse purchases is a convenient way to upsell customers on additional items they want and love. After all, who wouldn’t want to be surprised by what they find once in a while? 

To encourage impulse buying in-store, retailers should get personal with their product recommendations. Items that are relevant, handy, and inexpensive tend to do well. 

Making those items visible to shoppers using visual merchandising strategies like placement and signage can help reinforce emotional appeals, like scarcity or joy. 

Although visibility is important, you also don’t want to bombard shoppers with irrelevant products. Optimize the in-store experience by incorporating small wins for customers, like an easy-to-navigate store layout.

Small business