How many times have you gone to the grocery store with a list, only to throw a handful of random items in your cart because they looked appetizing? Or gone shopping for a new pair of shoes, only to come back with two? You can always use another pair of sensible work flats, right?

For me, these scenarios are nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, I’d venture to say that at least half of my purchases were unplanned, impulse buys. It seems, however, that my shopping habits may soon become an exception to the norm since a recent Wall Street Journal article professed the impending end of the impulse buy.

But why?

We’re all well aware of the impact that the Internet has made on the way consumers shop – the ease and convenience of buying online drove many consumers to choose eCommerce over the traditional model of shopping in-store. But more than that, it created a major shift in consumers’ in-store buying practices. With the Internet came unlimited access to product information, both from the company and from the very consumers that use those products. This unparalleled access created a more informed consumer, which in turn, slowly results in someone who lacks the urge to buy on impulse.

Consumers now are more intentional – they know exactly what they need to buy and have a specific reason for every item that makes its way into their shopping basket. As the Wall Street Journal article laid out, this decline in impulse purchases can have major repercussions on the way companies market products in-store. A savvy consumer is less tempted by the in-store marketing tactics brands have become accustomed to utilizing, choosing instead to rely more heavily on the word-of-mouth opinions of friends, family, and like-minded consumers. Before ever heading to the store, today’s consumers spend ample time researching their desired products in order to gain a deep understanding of its strengths and pitfalls, and how it could fit into their life.

This behavioral shift makes a company’s online presence more important than ever before. With that comes an increased need for user generated content like consumer reviews. According to Google, 70 percent of Americans say they look at reviews before taking the next step to conversion – and that was in 2013. Imagine how important user-generated content has become in the years since.

It’s the content that consumers see in their initial research that can turn a product from “nice to have” to “can’t live without,” and in today’s shopper mindset, brands must create that level of need before the consumer ever enters a store. The best way to do that is to take advantage of the user generated content your audience is already creating every day by:

  • Integrating reviews directly on the product pages – User-generated reviews are a proven sales driver since they often provide the hard facts and information consumers seek before committing to a product purchase. They help consumers determine the benefits of choosing one product over another and answer the question “Why do I need this product.” Also, these reviews are often trusted more than company content as it comes from other like-minded consumers.
  • Curating user images and videos from social channels – Consumers, especially younger generations, love to be seen as brand influencers and tastemakers, so they take a lot of pride in companies’ including their product photos and videos in marketing materials or on site. Use this to your advantage! Not only does it create an outlet for engagement and add excitement to marketing materials, but it answers many questions that reviews don’t necessarily fulfill. Where reviews help answer “Why do I need this product,” visuals will take it a step further by helping consumers understand how a particular product makes them feel, and how it will fit into their lives.

So while the Wall Street Journal’s article may speak truth about the end of impulse purchases, it doesn’t spell disaster for companies; it simply ups the ante. Those that can alter their strategy to appeal to the more prepared, savvy and thoughtful consumer by giving them all the information needed to make a purchase decision are the ones who will see the most success in this new retail environment.