Impulse Buying and Nafs Amarah

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From Wikipedia:

An impulse purchase or impulse buy is an unplanned decision to buy a product or service, made just before a purchase. One who tends to make such purchases is referred to as an impulse purchaser or impulse buyer. Research findings suggest that emotions and feelings play a decisive role in purchasing, triggered by seeing the product or upon exposure to a well crafted promotional message.

The above decision to buy is anchored in emotions and feelings which drive the consumer to make the purchase decision. Such a decision may be motivated by the way the product is promoted (e.g. via explicit graphics), their placements in the store (e.g. right at the checkout counter just when you thought your day’s shopping cart was filled) or even by attractive price points and sales.

What’s clear is that as the nature of impulse buying is unplanned, such a purchase may lead to regret or waste of resources. The consumer, after the purchase, may find himself asking why he made the purchase to begin with. Any satisfaction that is felt often does not last.

While impulse buying and the engineering of such a purchase habit may be on the fringe of conventional marketing and marketing ethics, it is definitely rejected to the point of haram in Islam and Islamic marketing. As Islamic marketeers, we have to recognize that it is our responsibility to maximize good for both us and the consumer, and not profit. Hence we are forbidden from inciting any form of impulse buying to the consumer, as there can be no real good to the consumer from impulse buying.

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What is the underlying mechanism of impulse buying? It is the Nafs (self, ego, the animal or satanic nature of man), or specifically, Nafs Amarah, the first and most primitive stage of Nafs (the second: Nafs Lawammah or the conscience state and the final: Nafs Mutma’innah or the one at peace). About the state of Nafs Amarah, God says in the holy Quran:

Yet I do not exculpate my own soul; verily the soul is ever inciting to evil, except that whereon my Lord has mercy. Truly my Lord is Forgiving, Merciful’. (Surah Yusuf: 53)

Hence in designing our marketing processes, we have to constantly check our intentions whenever we want to close the deal or encourage purchase.  It is very east to tempt the consumer, and we may gain in the short term in this world, but what about our state in the next? And even before that day comes, wise consumers who have purchased your product through impulse or Nafs Amarah, when all the excitement is over, will soon realize how you may have fooled them, and this in turn will affect your business altogether.

Encourage thoughtful buying habits for your consumer. Educate them on the product benefits. And for products which are of low value and may not be sold only except through impulse buying? The solution is not to fool your customers into buying such low grade products, but for you to look and reassess your product altogether.

About Author

I have +10 years of unique industry and academic marketing experience in various sectors of the Islamic Business ecosystem, including integrated marketing communications of Zakat (Islamic alms-giving), product and brand management of Wakaf (Islamic endowments), and marketing and feasibility studies in Islamic Education. My Masters thesis studied factors affecting halal-food purchasing by non-Muslims in Singapore. I’ve also spoken at seminars and conferences including the Global Islamic Marketing Conference. I’ve published several works as academic journal paper, books, newspaper commentaries and website articles. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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