Jeremy Smith Feb 19, 2019 11:33:54 AM 33 min read

How to Sell to The Spontaneous Buyer

For all your e-commerce and conversion smarts, could it be that you’re missing something?

In my corner of the conversion optimization industry, I’m constantly homing in on one of the biggest things that people miss — buyer psychology. It’s an arena of endless research, frequent surprise and discoveries that blow you away.

Best of all, from these psychological insights, I gain conversion optimization strategy that is actionable, tactical, and just plain works.

I don’t really care how much of a ninja you are at A/B testing or landing page optimization. If you miss out on psychology, you’re missing out on a treasure trove of conversion optimization information.

Different Buyers. Different Methods.

When we talk about buyer psychology or consumer psychology, we start to tap into the various types of buyers.

Each individual has a unique set of experiences, proclivities, interests, knowledge, awareness and sensitivities — all of which affect his or her decision to buy an item.

There are as many types of buyers as there are people who buy. That being said, there are certain characteristics that tend to predominate among buyers. This reality makes it easy for us to classify buyers into groups.

Author Bryan Eisenberg developed such a set of characteristics. They make up the Eisenberg Buyer Modalities, which is a fancy name for a pretty simple concept.


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Let me explain it.

  • The Y axis (that’s the vertical one) is all about speed — slow vs. fast. Buyers act at different speeds.
  • The X axis (that’s the horizontal one) is all about logic vs. emotion. Buyers are motivated by means of different thinking processes.

Thus, there are four types of buyers, each with its own quadrant.

  1. Competitive buyers: High logic/high speed. These people make decisions swiftly and smartly, always guided by their sharp analytical minds.
  2. Methodical buyers: High logic/low speed. Buyers like this take a long time to make their decision, but they do so thoroughly, weighing all the pros and cons.
  3. Spontaneous buyers: High emotion/High speed. Buying is thrilling. It’s a fast experience intensified by an emotional high.
  4. Humanistic buyers: High emotion/low speed. Buyers like this make a decision deliberately because they are interested in the emotional impact it will have upon themselves, the organization, and their relationships.


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The four modalities are simplistic by design. You’re probably somewhere within the quadrant, and so are the buyers who come to your website.

In this article, I’m going to deal with the spontaneous buyer.

My goal is to flesh out this concept of spontaneous, so you can understand how such a buyer is motivated, what drives them, how they act and, most importantly, how you should sell to them.


Characteristics of Spontaneous Buyers

So, what does this spontaneous buyer look like? In order to be as clear as possible, I’m going to put a picture of him below.

I have no idea who this guy is, except I hope he got paid for the photo shoot. I also hope that he doesn’t take offense at my painting him as a spontaneous buyer.

This is Ian. He is a spontaneous buyer. Let’s say “hi” to Ian.


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Now, let’s discover Ian’s characteristics, along with others who are similarly spontaneous in their buying behavior.

They are driven by emotion.

Spontaneous buyers allow their emotions to drive their behavior, specifically their purchases.

There is nothing wrong or unusual with this. Anyone who buys anything is affected by their emotion to some extent. Spontaneous buyers simply have higher levels of emotional involvement in a purchase.

Emotions affect our entire being — an experience that psychologists call “holistic perception." It’s virtually impossible to be self-aware and mentally disciplined to the extent that we remove emotion from our cognition as we contemplate a purchase.

Every thought, especially purchasing thoughts, are filtered through conscious and unconscious processing mechanisms. At the center of this filtering system are the emotions.


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Thinking is rarely linear, nor this controlled, but here’s how it plays out:


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For spontaneous buyers, the emotion — subjective cognition or perception — is especially strong. Many brands whose target audience consists of impulse buyers are able to capitalize on this emotional strength in their marketing.

What does this look like practically?

Budweiser’s memorable phrase, “This bud’s for you,” captured the chummy, neighborly, let’s-hang-out kind of emotion that a spontaneous buyer would appreciate.

That advertising tagline was filtered through the brain’s processing system in such a way that it empowered the emotion, and drew the spontaneous buyer closer and closer to buying a beer of his own.


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It’s an unforgettable campaign, with irresistible appeal for the beer-loving spontaneous buyer.



They will take risks.

The spontaneous buyer is not afraid of risk.


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What practical ramifications does this have?

For starters, they don’t mind the risk of a big purchase. More on that detail in the next point (“They spend big.”).

They’re also willing to spring for avant-garde products.

Have you ever wondered why SkyMall sells such weird things? Few people take a seat on the airplane thinking, “I will make a premeditated purchase of an overpriced bizarre invention that will eventually end up in my attic. Either that or my spouse will sell it to some unsuspecting chump at our garage sale. Oh, and its purported purpose is that it will help me sleep better on an airplane.”


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Only people like Ian — spontaneous to the core — will risk their self-respect on crap like that.

Here’s another thing about risk. They like in-your-face advertising. That’s why Vinomofo doesn’t mind insulting Ian’s mom.


And even a little f-bomb dropping is more attractive than it is offensive.


Watch for it at 0:16.



The bottom line? Spontaneous buyers like a little salty, a little spice and little risk.

They spend big.

Because spontaneous buyers take risks, they also tend to spend more money. There’s risk in making large purchases. A diamond ring, a Ferrari, a mansion — these are risky purchases, because of the high cost involved.


That’s exactly what makes spontaneous buyers such big spenders. Spontaneous buyers face no emotional barriers to making a big-ticket purchase. It’s easy. They’re lured in by the price tag.

Consumer analysts estimate that 40% of all consumer spending is impulse-based. Note that that 40% doesn’t refer to the percentage of the population that is spontaneous, but to the percentage of the total expenditure that is driven by an impulse behavior. The message is that these spontaneous people aren’t afraid to open their wallets wide.

Wikipedia’s entry for “impulse purchase” contains this explanation:

Impulse buying can also extend to more expensive items such as automobiles and home appliances. Automobiles in particular are as much an emotional purchase as a rational one. This in turn leads auto dealers all over the world to market their products in a rapid-fire.

Notice the term “rapid-fire” and “emotional” in obvious juxtaposition. That sounds a lot like the high-speed and high-emotional quadrant of spontaneous buyers, doesn’t it now?

They are gregarious, upbeat and positive.

“Asshole” and “spontaneous buyer” don’t usually describe the same person. Why? Because spontaneous buyers are good ol’ boys. They love having a good time, and making a quick and expensive decision to order another round of drinks for everyone at the bar.

A spontaneous buyer is just as likely to give you a friendly slap on the back as he is to buy a new watch “just for the heck of it.”


I paint broadly, but I do so with a point.

Spontaneous buyers, like I said, have strong emotions. Usually, these emotions are of the uplifting and positive kind. That’s why the spontaneous buyer has the emotional insensitivity to take a financial hit and a big risk.

Time Magazine expressed it brilliantly when they headlined their article with this phrase: “Why You Should Shop For Cars When You’re Grumpy.”

And why should you? Because you’re less likely to make a stupid decision. If you’re bouncing from cloud to cloud at heights of elation, you might buy more car than you can afford.

As Time explained, humans are “more sensitive to visual information when in a good mood.” The persistent buoyancy of a spontaneous buyer drives them to respond readily to glitzy ads, sleek cars and pictures of sexy people.

They are competitive.

Competition and spontaneity go hand-in-hand as buying motivators. The spontaneous buyer likes ads that appeal to his or her sense of competitiveness.

New Balance does this to sell athletic wear.


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You’ll get a full sense of that competitive nature with Under Armour’s advertising.


Athletic items sell well to spontaneous buyers, because they have that innate sense of speed and competitiveness. You can get the same feel and attitude by running competitions on your site to see who can be the first ... the best.

They will act fast.

Have you heard of speed dating? It’s “an organized social activity in which people seeking romantic relationships have a series of short conversations with potential partners in order to determine whether there is mutual interest.”


If identifying your soul mate in 10 minutes or less sounds really appealing, then you probably have a bit of the spontaneous about you.

Obviously, no speed dater in her right mind would marry after 10 minutes of small talk. But the idea of spontaneity is germane to the speed dating concept. It’s about speed.

Spontaneous buyers love speed. A fast purchase is a fun purchase. The more that comes at them in a purchase process, the better.

Spontaneous buyers are more susceptible to upsells in the checkout process. For the snappy spontaneous Ian, buying a domain name from HostGator turns from a three-dollar purchase into a few hundred bucks.


Why does Ian spend nearly four hundred bucks on a domain registration? Because he gives in to upsells as eagerly as moths fly to light bulbs.


When it comes to speed, you will do well to add as many speed-related urgency signals to your website as you possibly can.

Urgency is about the right now. Faster is the name of the game.

They defy logic.

The fact that a spontaneous buyer defies logic is not an insult to his or her intelligence. Spontaneous buyers are capable and smart people. In the face of purchase decisions, however, they make decisions that seem contrary to prudence and good sense.

“Stupid” is a strong term, but that’s often how we behave when we are in a buying situation. Why? It’s nothing less than cognitive biases — the mind-altering maladies that affect one and all.


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Logical arguments, charts, graphs, statistics, data — it’s all great stuff. But for the spontaneous buyer, they don’t really care. Those things don’t have the same persuasive power as other features like powerful visuals, urgency signals, etc.

They respond visually.

Ian and the spontaneous buyers of his ilk, are highly receptive to visual input and stimulation.

Website Magazine explains it this way:

Here’s the thing about spontaneous buyers — they often don’t know what they want until they see it. Therefore, an important aspect of targeting these customers is making the product to stand out for them. You can achieve this by using large banners, bold text and other typographic elements that make the product more visible.

Seeing something is the precursor to buying it. There is hardly any cognition between the two events. They see. They buy.

They insist on instant gratification.

Instant gratification is real and powerful. In marketing, it’s virtually irresistible, especially for the spontaneous buyer.


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By and large, spontaneous buyers are acting on the desire for instant gratification. Little else matters to them than getting it, and getting it now.

This attitude and its attendant behavior compel spontaneous buyers to do the things we’ve discussed in this article — take risks and spend big.


To summarize, here are the general characteristics of spontaneous buyers:

  1. They are driven by emotion.
  2. They will take risks.
  3. They spend big.
  4. They are gregarious, upbeat and positive.
  5. They are competitive.
  6. They will act fast
  7. They defy logic.
  8. They respond visually.
  9. They insist on instant gratification.

What do spontaneous buyers love?

To hook a spontaneous buyer, you have to identify those things that will compel action. I want to focus on just a few of those, since these involve practical things that you can do to enhance your online buying experience.


  • Make the funnel short and swift.
  • Your website should be fast.
  • Don’t complicate the checkout process with additional choices.


  • Visual stimulation is paramount. The website needs to appeal to the eyes, not just to the logical brain.
  • Use your most outlandish marketing idea. Chances are, the spontaneous buyer will love it.


  • High prices are no barrier to a purchase.
  • If you’re dealing with a predominantly spontaneous customer crowd, you will gain plenty of buyers even if your product seems overpriced.


  • Make emotional appeal the touchstone of your advertising.
  • Frontload your emotional arguments, and allow logical persuasion such as data and bar graphs to take a back seat.

What should you do?

Segment your buyers by modality.

At the most basic level, I encourage you to think of your customers according to their modalities. You may not be able to do email segmentation or landing page segmentation based on buyer modalities.

What can you do? You can change your mindset. Since it’s true that most buyers fall somewhere in the realm of the modalities, make it your goal to understand each modality and identify characteristics of buyers who are within a given modality.

Identify the things in your conversion funnel that will motivate a spontaneous buyer. Keep them.

Try to intuit the cognitive process of a spontaneous buyer as she proceeds through your conversion funnel. What is going to keep her moving? These are precisely the features and elements that you should retain.

Identify anything missing from your conversion funnel or website that could motivate a spontaneous buyer. Add them.

Need to add some urgency, some competition, or some in-your-face marketing approach? If you want to appeal to spontaneous buyers, you certainly do. Pick a few spontaneous elements to add, and juice up your conversion funnel.

Locate anything on your website or in your conversion pathway that could be a negative trigger for a spontaneous buyer. Remove these things.

These are the things that a spontaneous buyer would hate. Knowing that a spontaneous buyer doesn’t like slow websites or a clunky UX, could you improve on your website or conversion funnel? The slicker, the sicker and the sexier, the better.


If you’ve read this article in its entirety, you know more about the spontaneous buyer than most people on the planet, and more than most conversion optimizers. You can use this knowledge to your advantage.

One major advantage? If you implement spontaneous features in your website, you’ll get more than just spontaneous buyers to make purchases. Data shows that nearly all buyers — 90% according to the New York Post — exhibit spontaneous or impulse buying behavior at some point.

While the buyer modality quadrant has its validity, the truth is that most of us are wandering around from quadrant to quadrant depending on what time of day it is, who we’re with, how much sleep we’ve had, whether the item in question is a chocolate brownie or a Bluetooth headset, and depending on the number of days remaining until our next paycheck is direct-deposited into our checking account.

See what I mean? The same features that appeal to some spontaneous buyers are also going to appeal to some humanistic buyers in some situations on some days.

So you really can’t go wrong. I’d say the best thing that you can do with your time is to go split test some spontaneous features on your website.



Jeremy Smith

Digital marketer with a penchant for dance; helping clients see the light through the jungle of tweets since before Twitter was cool.