Before Covid, waiting in line at the supermarket checkout, we saw bins filled with Twix candy bars and Bubble Yum gum that were hard to resist. But during the past year, shopping from home, we faced none of those temptations.
We’ve become a different kind of impulse buyer.
Our grocery shopping has changed. One study of 8,000 consumers indicated that 61 percent of us were buying more online than before the pandemic:
As a result, North American sales of gum have been down 14 percent (by volume) and mints, 15 percent from 2019 to 2020:
Candy and gum makers know that their front-of the store selling model is threatened by self-checkout and online buying. They want to pivot our impulse buying.
Hershey believes one possibility is an “Add a Hershey” button at the virtual checkout. Elsewhere they are catering to our need for complementary goods by suggesting that we need a chocolate bar for a S’more when we have graham crackers in our cart or some salsa with our chips. Meanwhile, back in the store, they are also encouraging an extra purchase. At a ShopRite Supermarket in Monroe, New York, a robot is scooting through the store with packs of gum, M&Ms, and Skittles.
Our Bottom Line: At the Margin
Our impulse buying is all about the margin. Defined by economists as where we do something extra, the margin is where our impulse buying takes place. At the margin, an Amazon 1-click can mean you buy something before really thinking about it because there is no friction–nothing to slow down the transaction. Sometimes though more friction also generates a purchase at the margin. On the line at the supermarket, our delay is a form of friction that results in extra purchases.
So where are we? We’ve returned to where we began, at the margin, to the Bubble Yum we buy there.