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Researchers Find Shoppers Are Less Likely to Press Buy if They are Browsing on Their Phones

05 January 2018

Now that the Christmas season is over, that means post-holiday sales. Researchers have found that shoppers are less likely to go through with a purchase when they are browsing on their phones and tablets.

This is because consumers often worry that they are not seeing the full picture on a mobile app or that they could be missing out on special offers or overlooking hidden costs, according to this research. Concerns about privacy and security are also factors in what can motivate people to put items in the shopping bag, but not pull the trigger on the purchase.

Mobile apps are quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to shop online, but shopping cart abandonment is still much higher than for desktop-based online shopping. According to Crieto, a market research firm, the share of e-commerce traffic from mobile devices increased to 46 percent of global e-commerce traffic in Q2 2016. But only 27 percent of purchases initiated on the channel were finalized and conversion rates significantly lagged behind desktop initiated purchases.

Online researchers are investing heavily in mobile shopping, but they are not reaping the rewards to their full potential, and they want to know why. Researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) investigated why this phenomenon happens.

"Our study results revealed a paradox," said Dr. Nikolaos Korfiatis, of Norwich Business School at UEA. "Mobile shopping is supposed to make the process easier, and yet concerns about making the right choice, or about whether the site is secure enough leads to an 'emotional ambivalence' about the transaction - and that means customers are much more likely to simply abandon their shopping carts without completing a purchase."

The researchers studied online shopping data from 2016-2017 from consumers in Taiwan and the U.S. They found that the reasons for hesitation at the checkout stage were broadly the same in both countries. Additionally, shoppers are much more likely to use mobile apps as a way of researching and organizing goods, rather than as a purchasing tool and this also contributes to checkout hesitation.

"People think differently when they use their mobile phones to make purchases," said Dr Korfiatis. "The smaller screen size and uncertainty about missing important details about the purchase make you much more ambivalent about completing the transaction than when you are looking at a big screen."

Flora Huang, the lead author of the study, added, "This is a phenomenon that has not been well researched, yet it represents a huge opportunity for retailers. Companies spend a lot of money on tactics such as pay-per-click advertising to bring consumers into online stores - but if those consumers come in via mobile apps and then are not finalizing their purchases, a lot of that money will be wasted."

The team’s results showed that consumers are much less likely to abandon their shopping baskets if they are satisfied with the choice process. App designers can help by minimizing clutter to include only necessary elements on the device’s limited screen space and organizing sites via effective product categorization or filter options so consumers can find products more easily.

Other strategies that might prompt a shopper to complete a purchase include adding special offers or coupons for a nearby store at the checkout stage.

"Retailers need to invest in technology, but they need to do it in the right way, so the investment pays off," added Dr. Korfiatis. "Customers are becoming more and more demanding and, with mobile shopping, in particular, they don't forgive failures so offering a streamlined, integrated service is really important."

The paper on this research was published in the Journal of Business Research.

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