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Studies Show Visuals Drive Impulse Purchases

Industry News

Studies Show Visuals Drive Impulse Purchases

Most of us can recall a time–likely even within the last week or two–when we purchased something we hadn’t planned to. That’s because impulse buying is ingrained in consumer culture, so deeply that we often don’t even realize we’re doing it.

A study by the University of California at Berkeley tapped into the commonplace of the impulse purchase, finding that 68% of consumer purchases during major shopping trips were “unplanned.” The study analyzed 30,000 purchases made by 4,200 customers in 14 cities. And if you think we’re talking only about candy bars and bargain buys, think again. A new study from found that 1 out of 5 Americans admit to having spent more than $1,000 on an impulse purchase.

David Yurman

How Does Today’s Consumer Shop?

Online learning platform, SHIFT eLearning, offers fantastic insight into the power of visual processing (or in their case, visual learning), backed by a smorgasbord of eye-opening stats such as:

  • Our eyes can register 36,000 visual messages per hour.
  • 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual.
  • Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text.
  • An illustrated text is 9% more effective than text alone when testing immediate comprehension


The SHIFT example translates in the retail environment and is instantly relatable to consumer behavior. Consumers are drawn to exceptional visual merchandising built around well-crafted visual elements that engage and “speak” to the shopper in a fraction of a second of eye contact. What is new? What is cool? What is the best deal?


That the shopper so clearly received the message within the visual triggers a level of confidence vs. processing an evaluation of what is being communicated. Clarity provides a comfort-level of certainty that translates to the in-store experience and the brand relationship. And this crosses all visual solutions, whether captivating window graphics, traditional store signage and fixtures, lightboxes, digital signage or motion graphics.

Christian Louboutin

Physiological Reactions to Visuals Impact Impulse Shopping

A study by researchers at Indiana University provides an in-depth dissertation on the science behind capturing shoppers’ attention. When considering shoppers’ goals around visual merchandising, spacial allocation and other environmental conditions, it is the detailed adjustments in a product’s presentation and message that have a powerful impact on engagement and purchasing. Smart, easy-to-translate visual identifiers capture and hold the retention of shoppers, while more confusing visuals that are harder to process are translated and involuntarily dismissed by the brain as distractors, or visual “noise.”


Visuals are Not Only Impactful, But Also Cost-Effective

When you look at the most innovative and impressive retail displays, it’s easy to assume they’re simply too costly to produce. However, a handbook developed by the New York State Small Business Development Center and The Signage Foundation for Communication excellence shows that on-premise signage has the lowest cost per 1,000 consumer exposures at just $0.13–compared to $1.56 per 1,000 exposures via newspaper ads, and a whopping $6.60 per 1,000 exposures via television ads.


The book also notes a University of San Diego study conducted on behalf of the California Electric Sign Association and the International Sign Association, which found that the addition of just one on-premise sign at a fast food restaurant resulted in a 4.75% increase in annual sales. Again, slightly different application than retail, but the takeaway is transferrable.

Impulse Knives

Imagine. Partner. Create. Inspire.

Is your brand looking to maximize its in-store impact through visual merchandising and signage? Partner with a globally trusted advisor in Duggal Visual Solutions. For more than 50 years, Duggal has helped the world’s leading image-makers and brands communicate visually with their audiences and customers. Click here to learn more about our retail solutions.


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