Impulse Buying Statistics

Updated · May 20, 2023

The internet has made life much easier on many counts, shopping included.

And while people have always been impulsive in how they spend their money, today, impulsive behavior is so much easier.

Everything you can possibly imagine is just a click away.

And impulse buying statistics confirm the worrisome trends. Let’s analyze them carefully to see where that leaves us.

We discuss the type of commodities people buy most impulsively, what determines impulse buying, and some other interesting facts about impulse buys.

But let’s first define impulsive buying behavior—it’s a type of buying that is, of course, unplanned but also one which is financially irrational. Often, in the long run, it is detrimental.

This is a “narrow” definition of impulsive buying–a more broad definition would simply take it as any kind of buying which is unplanned.

Costly Statistics on Impulse Buys (Editor’s Choice):

  • Up to 87% of Americans buy things impulsively.
  • Americans spend up to $5,400 irrationally each year. 
  • 1 in 3 purchases during the holiday season is impulsive. 
  • 54% of US shoppers admit to spending $100 impulsively. 
  • Millennials, 52% of them, are quite likely to spend impulsively. 
  • 62% of irrational shoppers feel good after making non-planned buys. 
  • 40% of all ecommerce stems from impulsive buying!

Top 10 Impulse Buys & Spending Statistics

Things generate different buying potential.

Let’s see the things shoppers purchase the most on a whim.

1. Smartphones are the number 1 impulsive buy.

(Source: Statista)

$74.7 billion were spent on smartphones in 2022 in the US alone. No surprise there. In 2021, sales amounted to $73 billion, and in 2020 to $79 billion.

Considering that the average smartphone cost is $208, this might mean that around 355 million phones were sold in the US in 2022. 

2. People in the UK spend $3.9 billion on impulse buys each month.

(Source: Whistl)

According to the UK agency Whistl, top-selling impulse items in the UK are:

  1. Clothes 
  2. Food and Drink
  3. Home Accessories
  4. Shoes
  5. Jewelry 

56% of Brits surveyed say they buy clothes without prior planning. Food and drinks are another very frequent impulsive buy (49%), followed by Home Accessories (34%), shoes (27%), and jewelry (22%). 

Keep in mind that in this survey people were simply asked about their purchases without planning. The data could be skewed a bit by our intrinsic biases. For instance, the predicted number of phones in the world for 2022 is 15.96 billion, significantly more than there are people in the world. Now consider that smartphone ownership is concentrated in wealthy places like the US, UK, or France. Then you’ll see why we have many more smartphones than we really need and why they constitute the most important impulsive buy item group, if not the most important one. 

3. The most frequent impulsive buy is groceries–50%.

(Source: Shopify)

We must be careful when interpreting these new top impulse buys statistics for 2022 because it’s very hard to verify the numbers, even if they’re coming from a reputable source such as Shopify. 

For instance, Shopify just gives this and other percentages without giving us the context. We don’t know whether, for instance, Shopify tells us that 50% of people engage in impulsive buying of groceries. Also, the source Shopify states for its numbers leads us to this very general page where there is not a single trace of what Shopify talks about. 

In any case, here’s how the rest of the numbers look:

  • Clothing–43%
  • Vehicles–41%
  • Household items–35%
  • Coffee–31%
  • Books–22%
  • Takeout–22%
  • Technology–21%
  • Toys–21%
  • Shoes–21%

Truth be told, the list is fairly logical and has some of the suspects we obtained from looking at UK impulse buying statistics earlier.

The Mechanism of Impulsive Purchases

Impulse buying is a simple act, but the behavioral mechanisms that inform its execution are quite complex.

4. Impulse purchases primarily have a hedonistic function.

(Source: Tandfonline)

According to a study published in the journal of Information Systems Management, the motivation for impulsive purchases is primarily hedonistic. This is most certainly the case for a number of aforementioned groups of items, such as food, clothing, shoes, etc. People often indulge in shopping sprees as a way to “let the steam off” and feel a little bit better about themselves.

In fact, 62% of impulsive shoppers feel satisfied after making non-planned purchases. 

5. Impulsive buyers are less self-confident, more anxious, and more depressive than non-impulsive buyers.

(Source: Frontiersin)

Not all people are equally likely to buy on impulse. There’s a group of individuals whose personality traits predispose them to buy things without planning. Impulsive buyers are also more likely to experience obsessive-compulsive symptoms (which doesn’t necessarily mean that they are all diagnosed with OCD). 

Interestingly, impulsive shopping is one of the possible symptoms of borderline personality disorder. More specifically, one of the symptoms of BPD is impulsive and reckless behavior, such as drunk driving, substance abuse, shopping sprees, etc. 

6. Impulsive-compulsive buying is more common in women.

(Source: PubMed)

It’s a bit tricky to understand this relationship, which isn’t too strong in the first place–it’s safe to say that women are just slightly more likely to buy compulsively. It’s true that many products cater directly to women. Perhaps marketing is more targeted on women than men, although this is only a part of the story. 

7. There is a strong relationship between impulsive buying and emotional distress.

(Source: Korea Science)

Impulse buys are more likely when you’re feeling distressed. On the one hand, distress increases our impulsiveness, while on the other hand, we’re using the thrill we get from buying unnecessary things to soothe the emotional distress we’re experiencing. 

What Are People Spending Money On?

Let’s now turn to more general statistics and see how non-planned buying fits in a larger picture of shopping habits among people:

8. Americans spend 31.5% of their money on rent or mortgage.

(Source: Investopedia)

This might be the least impulsive buy, but still, it’s safe to say that many Americans are not rational with their mortgages or rents. One of the reasons why rent and property prices are going up is because there’s endless demand.

9. People in the US spend around $158 billion on illicit drugs per year.

(Source: Rand Corporation)

Drugs are perhaps one of the most drastic examples of an impulse buy item. It’s just that they aren’t sold legally, and they aren’t researched that much. The relationship between drugs and impulsiveness is two-fold: impulsiveness potentially leads to drug consumption; drug consumption makes you more impulsive. We can see just how vicious this circle is and why it’s so hard to free oneself from the shackles of drugs once you get into this world. 

10. Americans owe a shy of $1 trillion on credit card loans.

(Source: CNBC)

One of the most important facilitators of impulse spending is, of course, credit cards. It’s really simple. Spending the money you don’t have is easy, and it almost feels as if you’re getting something for free. 

Impulsive Buyers Demographics

We’ve already mentioned, here and there, the characteristics of impulsive buyers. Let’s now focus a bit more on the demographics and explain more closely the traits of typical impulsive shoppers:

11. Age significantly affects the tendency towards impulse shopping.

(Source: Link Springer)

Children are rather impulsive. This is why a significant proportion of all marketing caters directly to children, although this is ethically very questionable.

12. Over 80% of shoppers are impulsive, according to Shopify.

(Source: Shopify)

Keeping in mind all the caveats related to the Shopify info we mentioned above, we still wonder just how prevalent impulsive buying really is. But in this case, we were able to track Shopify claims back to hardcore science sources, which show that 87% of Americans say they made impulsive buys at some point. 

This info goes back to impulse surveys which are undertaken by numerous agencies, usually with the help of self-report measures. 

In addition, Google says that 1 in 3 purchases are impulsive during the holiday season. 

13. Internet celebrities may increase the tendency to buy luxury goods.

(Source: MDPI)

An important group of impulsive buyers are those who spend their money on luxury goods. Research undertaken by Chinese experts shows that internet celebrities and influencers can very much affect people’s decisions regarding the purchases of luxurious things. 

The most important factor in the influence of internet celebrities is social distance, which achieves the effect (of increasing the sales of luxury goods) by increasing trust. 

Speaking of modern trends, we know that more than half of millennials are more likely to engage in impulsive buying compared to other generations. 

Impact of Impulse Buying

There are important consequences of this phenomenon, which are very much indicative of modern “priorities” and common sense:

14. The average impulse buy amounts to $30.

(Source: Blue Cart)

This may not seem like a lot, but check out the next stat to see the real impact of non-planned shopping. 

15. Americans, on average, spend $5,400 on impulse buying per year.

(Source: CNBC)

This is around $450 per month. Impulsiveness cannot be eliminated altogether, and neither should it. But we have to understand that irrational shopping is an incredibly heavy burden for the whole world.

Wrap up

That’s about it.

Hopefully, by now, we’ve convinced you that impulse shopping is a real problem on a global scale. We used the latest impulse buying statistics to touch on many sides of irrational shopping habits, from buying food, groceries, and clothes, to smartphones.

We, humans, are oftentimes irrational and impulsive, but that doesn’t mean we have to be slaves to our less-than-laudable traits. Quite the contrary, we can and should control them as much as we can in order to really progress as a species.

Nick Galov
Nick Galov

Unaware that life beyond the internet exists, Nick is poking servers and control panels, playing with WordPress add-ons, and helping people get the hosting that suits them.