Science

Want to curb your spending? Then put your smartphone away, scientists say

Researchers believe a touchscreen device creates a more favourable shopping experience compared to a desktop computer.

Want to resist the urge to splurge? Then keep your smartphone out of your sight because new research suggests we are more likely to use our phones than our PCs for online spending sprees.

Experiments conducted by the University of British Columbia in Canada found that using touchscreen devices creates a more favourable shopping experience than using a desktop computer.

Researchers believe their findings could shed a light on consumer behaviour when it comes to touchscreen technology.

Smartphone research
Are smartphones fuelling our urge to splurge online? (Lauren Hurley/PA)

“Touchscreen technology has rapidly penetrated the consumer market and embedded itself into our daily lives,” said study author Ying Zhu.

“Given its fast growth and popularity, we know surprisingly little about its effect on consumers.

“With more than two billion smartphone users, the use of tactile technologies for online shopping alone is set to represent nearly half of all e-commerce by next year.”

Zhu and her team conducted experiments to measure thinking styles and purchase intentions using touchscreens devices and PCs.

Ying Zhu.
Ying Zhu (UBC)

Their aim was to investigate whether online purchase intentions differed when buying indulgent products, like chocolate or massages, compared to more practical utilitarian products, like bread or printers.

“The playful and fun nature of the touchscreen enhances consumers’ favour of hedonic products; while the logical and functional nature of a desktop endorses the consumers’ preference for utilitarian products,” said Zhu.

The findings also revealed that participants using smartphones scored significantly higher on experiential thinking while those on desktops scored higher on rational thinking.

Woman using smartphone.
The team conducted experiments to measure thinking styles and purchase intentions (Diego_cervo/Getty Images)

“Overall, what we learned is that using a touchscreen evokes consumers’ experiential thinking, which resonates with the playful nature of hedonic products,” said Zhu.

“These results may well be a game-changer for sectors like the retail industry.

“But my advice for consumers who want to save a bit of money is to put away the smartphone when you have urge to spend on a guilty pleasure.”

The results are published in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services.

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