retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Associated Press has a story about how supermarket chains making a foray into e-commerce are dealing with an abiding fear that online shopping trips will eliminate some impulse purchases.

"Part of the worry for companies is that shoppers won't get to see their products as they would at a store, where people often decide they want an item only after walking past it on shelves or in displays," the AP writes. "When shoppers order from a website, the thinking is that they aren't as susceptible to tossing extra goodies into their carts.

"'They don't buy so many Snickers and Skittles online as they would in the store,' said David Ciancio, senior customer strategist at dunnhumby, a shopping analytics company."

And so, the story says, "companies are using targeted ads, like to frequent cookie buyers, or suggesting add-ons like gum if someone is just short of getting free shipping. It's still a relatively new arena for packaged food makers, with less than 2 percent of groceries being purchased online, but that figure is expected to keep growing."

In addition, sites are offering features like cooking videos in the hope that they will inspire additional purchases.
KC's View:
Most of the retailers that I've talked to that are doing e-commerce find that their online basket sizes tend to be much larger on average than in-store basket sizes ... and so I find it amazing that anybody is worrying about impulse purchases of a stick of gum or candy bar.

Sure, some of those checkout impulse purchases are going to go away. But worrying about this reflects a kind of limited thinking that is going to kill some retailers.

I know that I make a ton of impulse purchases online, largely because smart e-commerce companies use data to push buttons that they know actually will work on me.