Internal and External Factors Effecting Impulse Shopping


Impulse buying refers to an instance when consumers experience sudden, powerful, and persistent urges to purchase some commodities immediately. Impulse and non-impulse buying tendencies are differentiated by two factors. Firstly, impulse purchases are accomplished in an unplanned manner and in absence of a recognized intention to acquire the commodities before visiting the store. Secondly, it is a purchasing tendency which involves emotional responses which happen before, during, or after an impulse purchase. Impulse buying has been recognized as a pervasive phenomenon that is attributable to 50% of the entire purchase value (Foxall, Goldsmith, Brown 1998, pp. 12-14). The tendency to buy impulsively has been aggravated by such market innovations as cash machines, credit cards, internet shopping, as well as home shopping networks. These innovations have made it easier for individuals to purchase as the whole exercise can be accomplished with an enhanced speed. In fact, retailers consider impulse buying to be an important aspect of business profitability, and this prompts them to create retail environments which encourage these types of purchasing behaviors.

Almost every individual has engaged in the impulsive purchasing behavior in one or several shopping occasions. Nevertheless, it is unfortunate as impulsive purchasing tendencies do result into severe and, at times, negative consequences. For instance, studies have indicated that impulsive buying is among the contributing factors to alcohol and drug addiction, eating disorders, teenage pregnancies, excessive spending, and criminal delinquency. Since the root causes of impulsive buying are yet to be uncovered, it has become necessary to research on the causes of this buying impuissance so that effective remedies can be formulated (Willig 2008, pp. 34-36).

Most of the studies relating to impulse buying have been focusing on the definition and the measurement concerning this buying tendency. Studies geared toward the determination of the factors which underlie the drive to buy impulsively are still scanty, and, therefore, impulse buying is yet to be fully (Warner 2011, pp. 11-13). This study evaluates the relationship which exists between the tendencies to buy impulsively and some of its most common stimulating factors. The study, therefore, addresses different categories of internal states as well as the external factors which trigger impulse buying.

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Literature Review

The most common external factors include the price of the commodities, the discount being offered, virtual merchandising, and the attitude of the shop attendants. Other external factors include such factors as the floor design, window display, interpersonal triggers, situational triggers, and availability of the shopping coupons. In most instances, internal factors pertain to such issues as fashion consciousness, cognitive triggers, self-esteem, moods, and emotional attachment. The study commences by information gathering through the interviewing method. It then proceeds into applying the qualitative research method. In the end, the study has been able to present findings in a holistic manner (Benson 2008, pp. 71-72).

As indicated in the introduction, impulse buying is known to result in several negative outcomes, and these outcomes include social disapproval, feelings of guilt, and product disappointment. This section, therefore, is focused on uncovering the root causes of this irrational behavior. As of now, psychologists have recognized two basic categories of triggers to impulse buying. They include the internal and external factors. This research work has been accomplished with the full realization of the fact that most of the preceding studies did focus predominantly on external factors. These are the factors which are, in most cases, controlled by the marketer. Nevertheless, it has become apparent that these external factors cannot be utilized sufficiently understand the purchasing behaviour. In this regard, psychologists encourage the consideration of the internal factors as studies relating to consumer behaviours are accomplished (Yang, Huang, Feng 2011).

Over the last few years, consumer studies have endeavoured to define impulse buying in a manner which incorporates the psychological factors which prompt consumers’ tendency to engage in unplanned buying. In this regard, several measuring models and instruments of assessing personality have been defined. Some of these models are as a result of exploration, and they have been tested, revised, and refined through several instances of empirical testing. These models have helped identify the most common personality dimensions. These dimensions include social potency, wellbeing, social closeness, control, aggression, alienation, stress reaction, achievement, absorption, traditionalism, and harm avoidance (Blythe 2008, p. 10).

Among the aforementioned dimensions, there are those three that appear to have a particularly relevance with the impulsive buying tendencies. The three include absorption, stress reaction, and lack of control or impulsivity. Nevertheless, this list is inconclusive, and the predominance of some of the factors over the others is dependent on individuality as well as the prevailing situation (Sullivan 2008).

Research Methodology


In the attempt to meet the exploratory goals for this study, the views of impulse shoppers at London’s Westfield shopping mall have been sought. The respondents were randomly chosen to participate in an interview where well-designed questionnaire had been prepared to meet the objectives of the research. The data gathered as well as the information which had been compiled from such secondary resources as published articles and various textbooks were then interpreted to derive comprehensive results. Other sources include some of the relevant studies which were completed in the last six years.

Research Design

As noted in the introduction, the study utilizes the qualitative research method, a method which avails a level of flexibility which facilitates the accommodation of some of the issues which would arise after a certain stage has been accomplished. For instance, there were some instances when the respondents sought to provide additional information. Additionally, the method avails numerous options for selecting the tools for gathering data. For example, in addition to interviews, notes pertaining to the observable buying behaviours are also compiled as the method allows the collection of data for the purpose of establishing the inter-relationships the internal and external factors. The interviewing method proves to be useful as clarifications are sought a scenario which encourages the participants as they air their views on what really drive their purchasing behaviour. Moreover, the method helped in creating a working relationship between the researcher and the impulsive shoppers, a situation which facilitated conclusiveness in the study. Explanations in this study are, therefore, well-grounded and rich in content as they follow the evocation of feelings in a manner that is realistic and agreeable to the research settings.

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This study targets individuals who have impulsively shopped in the London’s Westfield shopping mall. Westfield was opted for due to the fact that it is a convenient place to shop, and, as such, it has most of what would be considered to be the external factors. The study was based on interviews which involved two of the impulsively buying shoppers. The interview questions, as indicated in the appendix, are designed in a manner which facilitates answering in an elaborated descriptive form. Being descriptive enables the interviewees to respond holistically on those aspects which drive them into engaging in impulsive buying. As indicated in the appendix, the interviews, in addition to the written responses, are recorded to facilitate later transcribing and analysis. The respondents were chosen through a simple randomized sampling that involved several potential participants, each of whom had an equal chance of becoming a respondent.


A survey questionnaire was used as the basic data gathering tool for this research (See the Appendix). The questionnaire was subdivided into two basic sections: the profile section and the surveying proper. The profile contains the social-demographic attributes of the interviewees including interviewee’s name, gender, sex, the meeting place, and age. The survey proper explores the employees’ perception on the impact of the internal and external factors on the consumer purchasing decisions, specifically the impulse buying. The questions are open, and, therefore, the participants are in a position to give a wide range of responses. No scale has been used in the interpretation of the responses because the aim has not been to develop such statistics as used in quantitative surveys. The open questions did allow the study to establish effectively the qualitative approach and to gather data in a holistic manner. After all the answers had been delivered, the respondents were asked to make more suggestions, and the necessary corrections were made, a situation which improves the validity of the study.

Ethical Considerations

Because this study involves the human participation, certain ethical matters are addressed. For the purpose of enhancing its ethical standards, various privacy and safety issues are addressed us to safeguard the concerns of the participant. The most important ethical considerations include the ascertaining of confidentiality, a situation which necessitates seeking the participant’s consent, especially after it has been perceived to be necessary to publish some of the details which are considered private. In any case, the study does not include any personal information, such as names and contact details in the final research paper.

In an attempt to secure the participants’ consent, details of the study are relied to the participants beforehand. These details will include the purpose and aims of the study. This strategy is to facilitate the understanding of the important details that are being evaluated. It is also meant to inform the participants/interviewees that they hold a vital position in the research, and, therefore, their contributions are necessary for the study to be successful. Finally, the respondents are advised that they reserve the right to withdraw from the study if they find it to be uncomfortable. In fact, the study is focused on those relevant details which will facilitate the answering of the important research questions.


The interviewees gave their responses in an elaborated manner. They reported that there existed a variety of factors that influenced them into engaging in impulse purchasing. The factors that featured predominantly include moods, fashion consciousness, emotions, self esteem, as well as affective triggers like when they felt dull. Other factors include cognitive triggers which make them feel that they deserve to own something. The aforementioned influences are, actually, the internal factors. The respondents did also indicate to have been influenced by such external factors as the design of the shop floor, offers, shop staff, window display, and coupons. Some impulses were due to interpersonal triggers like wanting to fit in with clusters, and others were influenced by the situational triggers like birthdays and other festive occasions.


This research study has been primarily focused on establishing the constructs that help explain the root causes of impulse purchasing behaviour. The results did indicate a substantial support for the implications of personality conceptions (internal) and situational (external) factors on impulse buying tendencies. Whenever the internal factors get out of control, situational/external factors become predominantly influential (Jalan 2006). The association between the two categories of factors ends up making shoppers susceptible to other environmental stimuli. This ends-up contributing to an impulsive purchasing behaviour.

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Factors affecting impulse buying

According to the respondents, impulse buying is determined by a variety of temporal, spatial, cultural, personal, and economic factors. The respondents indicated that there are instances when one finds him/herself buying the same commodity on different occasions, and this indicates that, with regard to the consumer purchasing decisions, situational factors are as influential as personal ones. In fact, it is for this reason that some of the interview questions focused on determining whether there exists a link between the external and internal factors as well as the impact of such a linkage on the purchasing behavior (Underhill 1999, pp. 82-84). In addition to external and internal factors, this study has evaluated some of the most influential demographic variables including age, occupation, gender, and income. Other important demographic factors include the level of education, the marital status, the social status, and the household income. According to the interviewees’ responses, it is apparent that a section of entrepreneurs and marketers value these factors and they have, indeed, made functional and complete marketing plans which aim at taping the shoppers’ tendency to engage in impulse buying.

Impulsive buying situations

Various buying situations have led to diversified impulse buying tendencies. For instance, the respondents have indicated that the influence of such factors as marketing stimuli, situational factors, and trait impulsivity ends-up initiating impulse buying tendencies, although this vary between individuals (Hoyer & Macinnis 2009, p. 50). Additionally, different occasions have varying impacts even with the same individuals. This fact has been affirmed by the interviewees’ views that impulsive buying may result from fun or hedonistic shopping. For instance, both of them indicated that availability of time increases the probability to indulge in unplanned purchases. Nevertheless, they did indicate that habit plays a role in influencing the purchasing behavior (Hoyer & Macinnis 2009, p. 50). In this regard, the two interviewees reported to have noted that those shoppers who are inclined to impulse buying end up making more unplanned purchases than those who possess weak tendencies to engage in unplanned acquisition of merchandise. Even so, an individual buyer’s self-control facilitates the elevation of the urges to engage in impulse buying.

Conclusion and Recommendation

Impulse shopping is a rapid and instantaneous purchase with no pre-shopping aim either to buy the particular product or to fulfill a particular buying mission. This study has investigated a number of external and internal factors that influence impulsive buying behavior. In an effort to study this relationship, this study principally endeavored to clarify the relationship between impulse buying behaviors of the shoppers at the Westfield London and the factors that influence the tendency to buy aimlessly. A significant finding of this investigation was that various external factors, in conjunction with the personal/internal factors, act as great influences on the clients’ impulse buying behaviors (Maymand & Ahmadinejad 2011).

The outcome proved that whenever the customers are exposed to the visual stimuli, they are prompted to engage in impulse purchases. Although this study has met its expectations, future researchers ought to incorporate in-depth studies with the field research interviewing. The utilization of observations and longitudinal interviews would enable researchers to achieve conclusive results as various perspectives are considered. In this regard, the studies would lay a firm foundation for the future improvement as important factors would have been taken into consideration (Maymand & Ahmadinejad 2011). The expanded research, therefore, facilitates the understanding of various impulsive tendencies.

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