Document 176153

Planned or Impulse Purchases?
How to Create Effective Infomercials
Conventional wisdom suggests that most purchases made from infomercials—
University of Auckland,
30-minute direct-response television advertisements—are made on impulse. However,
New Zealand
[email protected]
this study of 878 infomerciai purchasers of six products from a major internationai
infomerciai marketer indicates that the majority of purchase decisions invoived some
University of Auckland,
New Zealand
[email protected]
degree of planning rather than simpiy being made on the spur of the moment. Factors
infiuencing whether a purchase was an impulse or planned decision included:
comments by experts, demonstrations, the levels of previous product interest,
prepurchase thinking about the product, and prior exposure to the advertisement,
as well as the number of infomercials viewed by consumers. Having children aged
between 10 and 14 years old also had an influence.
of advertising of
considerable commercial significance. In 1996, advertisers were reported to have spent $800 million
on infomerciai time (Lockard, 1997), with infomercials more recently generating global sales of $75
billion {Direct Marketing, 1999). Furthermore, a
number of large companies are using or planning
to use infomercials, including Cadillac, Philips,
Ericsson, and Volvo (Guilford, 1999; Krol, 1998;
Halliday, 1999; Wasserman, 1999).
Yet despite the commercial importance of this
form of advertising, there is little past research in
this area. This is surprising given that iitfomercials, as a form of direct-response advertising,
have been highlighted as different from other
types of television advertising. For instance, Andrews (1999) suggests that direct-response advertisen\ents provide consumers with enough information to make a purchase decision, as well as
giving them a way to purchase the product immediately. This study addresses this gap in previous
research by examining two research questions:
1. Are infomerciai purchases planned or impulse
2. What factors influence whether an infomerciai
purchase is planned or impulse?
Infomercials have been defined as a longer than
average advertisement that ranges in duration
from 3 to 60 minutes (Belch and Belch, 1993). They
form a subset of the broader category of directresponse television advertising that can be split
into three categories: infomercials, short-form
commercials—usually two minutes or less—and
home-shopping-channels devoted entirely to selling products via television on a 24-hour-a-day
An intriguing feature of infomercials is that they
may appear to the viewer initially as a program
rather than a commercial. The long duration of
infomercials also increases the chances of catching
channel surfers (Duket, 1997). Indeed, the fact that
viewers happen upon the infomerciai rather than
actively seek it out is reflected in the typical construction of an infomerciai. They usually consist of
segments containing demonstrations, with testimonials by experts and satisfied users separated
by two internal commercials. In addition, they
contain the offer, price, payment options, telephone number, and a repeated call for action. Each
segment can stand on its own, thus viewers are
able to tune in during any segment and receive a
complete sales presentation.
November . December 2 0 0 1 JDllROflL OF RODERTISinG RESEflRCH 3 5
Although there may be no other form of
direct-response advertising that produces
such measurable results so quickly, there
' " * ' L t J.
is little published research in the area.
R e s p o n d e n t Demographjc Profile
Elliott and Speck (1995) were the first to
• i:
• 1
look specifically at mfomercials. Their
study was of viewer characteristics and
how these might relate to attitudes and
purchase intentions. A mail survey by Elliott, Speck, and Alpert (1995) indicated
that viewers generally had negative be-
liefs about infomercials, which significantly affected attitude and purchase in. .•
u ..1.J-.1
tentions, although additional exposure to
infomercials did have a positive effect.
Donthu and Gilliland (1996) studied the
29 6
2 1
psychographics of infomerciai shoppers,
describing them as heavier television
viewers who are more convenience seeking, variety seeking, innovative, and risk
Household Income
accepting. Thus infomercials appear
to have the potential to evoke impulse
Impulse buying
Impulse buying has been defined as a
spontaneous, immediate purchase (Rook
and Fisher, 1995). The consumer is not actively looking for the product and has no
prior plans to purchase (Beatty and Fer-
rell, 1998; Weun, Jones, and Beatty, 1998).
Rook and Hoch (1985) assert that people
experience consuming impulses. Further-
High school graduate
more. Rook (1987) identifies this buying
impulse with descriptors such as a spon-
Technical or trade qualification
taneous, intense, exciting, urge to buy
with the purchaser often ignoring the consequences. While research in this area discusses impulse buying as a trait, rather
than as the classification of a purchase de-
Other tertiary qualification
College graduate
Marital Status
cision, researchers agree that consumers
vary in their impulse-buying tendency
(Pud, 1996; Rook and Fisher, 1995). Re-
"Married/Living together
garding the impulse infomerciai decision,
Stern (1962) has offered the suggestion effeet of unplanned purchase. Here, unaware of a new product, the consumer is
3 6 JDUflflRL OFflDllEflTISIRGflESEflRCflNovember . December 2 0 0 1
the TV purchase; previous interest in the
*^P^ °^ product purchased; previous ex-
""Maori descent
Pacific isiand descent
Totai sampie size
posure to TV advertisements for the product purchased as well as similar products;
^^'^ amount of thought given to the TV
^°' example, whether the purchase was
an impulse or planned decision was meaj u ..u -^ /-^
u J
sured by the item To what degree would
you say your decision to purchase was
planned in advance?" (1 = Not at all—just
^ ^P"'^ °^ * e moment impulse, 5 = Very
much—had planned to buy the next time
'Percentages based on totats of each characteristic.
I saw the advertisement). Likewise, predisposition toward purchasing a product
exposed to stimuli that suggests a need is
conducted in three waves over a three-
similar to that advertised included ques-
satisfied through purchase,
month period. The products were adver-
tions such as: "I had seen TV ads for other
tised during approximately 25 hours of
products like this before," and "I had been
TV time purchased per week. We devel-
looking around for a product like this,
oped a database of 878 purchasers re-
even before I saw the TV ad," Pre-
sponding to our mail survey, which rep-
purchase thinking included questions
The data used in this study was collected
resents a response rate of 32,8 percent, A
such as: "I thought a lot about the info-
with the cooperation of the New Zealand
profile of the sample is presented in Table
mercial before 1 decided to buy," and "Be-
division of a major international infomer-
1, This was a tradeoff between more ques-
fore I decided I thought a lot about wheth-
cial marketer. New Zealand represents a
tions and therefore more information with
er I might benefit from the product,"
microcosm of 3,8 million consumers who
a slightly lower response rate; 30 percent
Perceptions of advertising effectiveness
are often used as a test market for launch-
has been noted as a reasonable response
related to seven items such as "I found the
ing new products by global marketers
rate to expect (Cooper and Fmory, 1995),
infomercial interesting and informative,"
(e,g,. Reader's Digest).
and "The demonstrations of how the
Infomercials are programmed in off-
product worked were very helpful in
peak times, usually mid-morning and
Survey instrument
making my decision to buy," Respondents
were asked to indicate degree of agree-
after midnight. Virtually all of these are
The survey consisted of questions cover-
produced for the American market with
ing the type of purchase decision, as well
ment with statements related to the above
the only modification for the New
as factors that influence this decision,
measured by a 5-point scale with anchors
Zealand market being price and ordering
areas that we believe break new ground in
1 = agree strongly and 5 = disagree
infomercial research. The survey package
We surveyed 2,670 people who had
consisted of a cover letter, a prize draw
purchased a product from an infomercial
incentive, the questionnaire, and postage-
within the previous two weeks. Six prod-
paid reply envelope, A follow-up mailing
Two different analyses were conducted on
ucts were surveyed: three exercise devices
with an additional survey was sent
the data. First, factor analysis was per-
including a strider for aerobic fitness, a
approximately two weeks later with
formed to assess the underlying dimen-
rider providing resistance for major
an additional prize draw opportunity to
sionality of scale items; this allowed indi-
muscle groups, and an exerciser to reduce
improve response. The sections of the
ces to be created for constructs measured
the buttock area; a facial cream; a chil-
survey relevant to degree of planning
by multiple items. Second, a multiple re-
dren's reading program; and a memory-
consisted of questions relating to the fol-
gression was used to determine what fac-
improvement course. The research was
lowing: the degree of planning given to
tors influenced whether an infomercial
November • December 2 0 0 1 JOORUHL DFflDIIERTISIRGRESERRCH 3 7
purchase was planned or made on impulse. The criterion variable here was the
extent to which a decision was a planned
or impulse decision. The results of these
analyses and the independent variables
used in the regression analysis will now
be presented,
Factor anaiysis
The principal components analysis generated six indices: advertising effectiveness
(Cronbach's alpha = ,79); comments and
demonstrations (a = ,74); payment information (a = ,64); recognition, comparison,
and extras (a = ,56); previous interest in
the product index (a = ,63); and a prepurchase thinking index (a = ,83), These
are displayed in Table 2, Overall, these indices demonstrate adequate reliability
with only the "recognition, comparison,
and extras" factor falling below a coefficient of ,60 (cf, Malhotra, 1993), yet it is
still above the ,50 guideline of Guilford
Research Question 1: Infomercial purchases—planned or impulse? In response
to being asked to what degree respondents felt their infomercial purchase was
planned in advance, where 1 = impulse
decision and 5 = very planned decision,
the results indicated that purchases were
somewhat planned (Mean = 3,66, standard deviation = 1,43), Only 13 percent of
respondents considered their purchase a
spur of the moment decision. On the other
hand, 65 percent believed that some planning had gone into the purchase decision,
with 38,9 percent of the total number of
respondents rating their decision as very
much planned.
Research Question 2: What factors influence whether a purchase is planned or
impulse? The results for the multiple
regression are displayed in Table 3, The
regression model was significant (p < ,001)
with 27 percent of the data explained by
the model (Adjusted R-square = ,27), Two
variables had a statistically significant
positive association with the extent to
which a decision was planned or impulse
(1 = impulse decision, 5 = very planned
decision). The first was prior exposure to
the advertisement (r = ,26, p < ,001), As
prior exposure was a dummy variable for
the question "Had you seen the infomercial before for the product you just
bought?" (0 = no, 1 = yes), this result indicates that a "yes" response (i,e,, prior exposure) was more indicative of a planned
decision rather than an impulse one. Presumably, impulse buyers are more likely
to purchase upon first exposure, when
they react to the "impulse" to purchase
(Rook, 1987), Planned infomercial purchasers are more likely to have viewed the
infomercial on previous occasions before
committing themselves to the actual purchase of the advertised product.
To further investigate this result we reduced the dataset to those buyers who
had answered "yes" for prior exposure
(i,e,, they had seen the infomercial before).
We then ran a correlation between their
planned/impulse dependent variable
scores (1 = impulse decision, 5 = very
planned decision) and the number of
times these consumers had seen the advertisement (1 = seen once, 4 = 4 times or
more). Not surprisingly, this revealed a
significant positive association (r = ,18,
p < ,001) which suggests that planned decisions are associated with having seen
the infomercial advertising that product
numerous times. In other words, the more
often the infomercial is seen, the more
planned the final decision purchase is
likely to be.
The second variable positively corre-
3 8 JDHRRRL DF RDDERTISIRG RESERRCH November . December 2 0 0 1
lated with whether a decision was
planned or impulse was children aged
10 to 14 years (r = ,10, p < ,05), This indicates that if infomercial buyers have children in their household aged between 10
and 14 years old the purchase decision is
likely to be more planned. Buyers with
children of this age are less likely to make
an impulse purchase in response to seeing
an infomercial.
Variables with significant negative associations with planned/impulse decisions were: Comments and demonstrations (p < ,01); previous interest in the
product (p < ,05); prepurchase thinking
(p < ,001); and amount of infomercial
viewing (p < ,05),
For comments and demonstrations this
result shows that the more important that
infomercial buyers rate customer testimonials, expert comments, and demonstrations shown in the advertising (1 = very
important, 5 = not important at all), the
more likely they are to make a planned
purchase rather than an impulse one. For
previous interest in the product, planned
decisions were associated with higher levels of previous interest in the product advertised. Buyers here are more likely to
have been looking around for a product of
this type before they saw the infomercial
and thus are more planned and considered in their infomercial purchase.
For prepurchase thinking, the more
buyers think about the content of the informercial they have seen, the more likely
they are to make a planned decision. This
indicates that consumers who are stimulated to think by the infomercial are less
likely to make impulse purchases. For the
amount of infomercial viewing (0 = more
than once a week, 1 = once a week or less),
this negative correlation suggests that the
fewer infomercials a consumer watches,
the more likely that person is to make an
impulse purchase. Conversely, people
Factor Analysis Results
Advertising Effectiveness^
i found the infomerciai interesting and informative.
i found the infomerciai entertaining and fun to watch.
The demonstrations of how the product worked were very heipfui in mal<ing my decision to buy.
1 couid reiate to the peopie in the ad who tried the product.
The host or celebrity in the ad made me feel the product was a good one.
i often checi< TV iistings to see when infomerciais are on.
Comments and Demonstrations^
Testimonials from satisfied users
Comments by an expert
Peopie iike me in the infomerciai who seemed to benefit from using the product
Payment Information^
Easy payment plan with credit card
Money back guarantee
The amount of information provided
Buying at home, free number
Recognition, Comparison and Extras^
Someone 1 recognized from TV or the movies talking about the product
Comparing its benefits to simiiar products
Additional items included in the TV offer
Previous Interest in the Product^
1 had seen TV ads for other products iike this before.
1 thought a iot about simiiar products that i had seen in shops or on TV,
1 had been looking around for a product iike this, even before i saw the TV ad.
Prepurctiase Ttiinking^
\ thought a lot about the infomercial before i decided to buy.
The infomercial made me think a lot about the product before 1 decided to buy.
1 thought a iot about the reasons given for buying it.
Before i decided 1 thought a lot about whether 1 might benefit from the product.
'All factor item endpoints: 1 = agree strongly, 5 = disagree strongly
^Att factor item endpoints: 1 = very important, 5 = not important at all
^AH factor item endpoints: 1 = strongly agree, 5 = strongly disagree
November . December 2 0 0 1 JDIIRRRL DF RDDERTISIIIG RESERRCH 3 9
who watch infomercials more than once a
week, are more planned in their purchase
. . . infomercial purchases are not always the impulse decisions that we might expect. Overall, purchases are
rather planned.
This study has found that infomercial purchases are not always the impulse decisions that we might expect. Overall, purchases are rather planned. In this study,
pure impulse purchases represented the
minority (or 13 percent) of total purchases,
Most were planned, at least to some ex-
Multiple Regression Results
^^^^^ ^f^^^ ^^^^^ ^^^ infomercial several
^-^^^ Importantly, we uncovered some
yggf^j findings for what factors influence
whether an infomercial purchase is a
planned or an impulse decision.
j ^ ^^^^^ ^j the factors that influence
whether an infomercial purchase decision
is planned or impulsive, the results suggest that consumers are more likely to
make impulse purchases whether they are
infrequent viewers of infomercials. This
suggests that it is the infrequent viewer of
informercials who is most susceptible to
making an impulse purchase. In contrast,
j ^ u
more frequent viewers tend to be more
Infomercial Elements
likely to make planned decisions that
are often associated with seeing the info-
Consumer Ctiaracteristics
mercial a number of times.
Previous interest in product
Prepurchase thinking
Prior exposure to ad'
Amount of Infomercial viewing
Interestingly, impulse purchasers often
have lower levels of previous interest in
* ^ P''°^"'^* ^ ^ ^ ' ' " ^ * = ^ " P^^""^"^ P""chasers. This suggests that for impulse
. ,
buyers, infomercials succeed in making
, ., ^ , ,,
Adjusted R-square
consumers aware of a product, convincing
Standard error of estimate
them of their need for this product, and
securing a purchase. Likewise, impulse
buyers, having seen the infomercial, are
less likely to engage in prepurchase
o o
r r
thinking whereby they contemplate the
-^ ofr ..u
,. presented
,. J in
• .u
the arguments
infomercial. Overall then, impulse buyers.
Note: Variables include advertising effectiveness, payment
information, recognition, comparison and extras, prior purchasin<^ usini^ infomercials, prior purchasing using regular
and are acted upon without a lot of reflection or prepurchase intentions.
Since planned buyers have a greater interest in the product before even seeing
the infomercial, these consumers may
have higher levels of intrinsic involvement with the product (Celsi and Olson,
1988), Owing to this higher natural interest, planned buyers may have more extensive evaluative criteria and information
needs than impulse buyers. The decision
requires greater thought and evaluation
than it does for an impulse buyer. Consequently, planned purchasers find demonstrations of product performance and expert comments more important, presumably as part of their more analytical
assessment of the message's argument
quality (Laczniak and Muehling, 1993),
This represents a useful avenue for future
research. Furthermore, given that planned
buyers have seen the infomercial more often it would be of interest to study how
best to repeat infomercials to generate
sales. For example, do more purchases result from planned buyers viewing the
same infomercial repetitively on one occasion (e,g, seeing the advertisement three
times in a row) or from viewing that infomercial once each day over subsequent
relative to planned buyers, have seen the Consumers with children aged between
infomercial fewer times before purchase, 10 and 14 years of age also tended to make
TV ads, prior purchasing using mail-order catalogs^pay^^""^ ^^^^ previous interest in the product, more planned decisions. One could argue
ment method, product type, and the demographics—age, and think leSS about the merits of the ad- that with a limited budget and less disposeducation, ethnicity, gender, income, marital status, chil^ertising before purchase. These findings able income, or at least compromises that
dren in the household under 2 years, 2-5 years, 5-9 years,
and 15-20 years. The table includes only those variabtes
xoith significant standardized beta coefficients.
"Beta significant at p< .05
'•Beta significant at p < ,01
'Beta significant at p< .001
would appear to implicitly Support the lit- had to be reached in household expendierature on impulse buying. For instance, ture, these consumers were more consid„
.. ,
^eatty a n d Ferrell (1998) assert that im-
ered in their approach to purchasing.
pulse purchases tend to be spontaneous Whether this was because of a sense of
4 0 JGDRRHL DF RGDERTISIRG RESERRCR November . December 2 0 0 1
fiscal responsibility, or whether the views
of family members were sought in approving the purchase (Beatty and Talpade, 1994; ChUders and Rao, 1992) is an
interesting avenue for further research.
Factors that had no influence on the extent of planning included: the type of
product advertised, the payment information displayed, the effectiveness of the advertising, whether the consumer had purchased from an infomercial, TV advertisement, or mail-order catalog before, and
the method by which consumers paid for
their products. Likewise, demographic
variables did not influence consumers,
with the exception of the aforementioned
age of children in the household. Of some
surprise is that infomercial elements that
appear to be employed often, such as endorsement by recognizable spokespeople
(Ohanian, 1991), product comparisons
(Neiman, 1987), and offering additional
items in the infomercial, while involving
the viewer or enhancing the selling proposition, did not seem to influence the nature of the decision,
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Head of the School of Marketing and Advertising at
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purchases may be categorized as somewhat planned, especially if the consumer
has viewed the advertising several times.
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that impulse purchasers are characterized
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than planned purchasers, having seen the
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