Shopping on the Internet? Beware of your smartphone

November 21, 2019 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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With the shopping season about to start, consumers may make better shopping decisions using their desktop/laptop computer rather than smartphones or other mobile devices, according to new research from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Professor Lior Fink

“The issue is not actually screen size,” says Prof. Lior Fink, head of the Mobile Behavior Lab and a member of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management at BGU. “It is actually the fact that sites adjusted for mobile viewing reduce the information offered on the results page and require more digging around in the site for information. Sites adjusted for PC viewing give more information right up front.”

This is the first study that differentiates between screen size and information reduction, which are often mixed up. The findings will be presented next month at the International Conference on Information Systems, the top academic conference in the field.

In 2018, phones accounted for 47% of traffic to online stores and 36 per cent of sales according to Adobe Analytics. Last Black Friday was the first during which there was more than $2 billion in online U.S. sales via phones.

“Most e-commerce providers use ‘responsive web design’ to adapt the presentation of information to the device used,” Fink explains. “While mobile-friendly presentation improves visibility, it reduces the amount of information and causes consumers to make decisions that are less consistent with their preferences.”

From a pure decision-making perspective, the study shows it is better to simply present the same information irrespective of the device used. Consumers will find the information more difficult to view on mobile devices, but their decisions will be more accurate.

Prof. Fink and his master’s student Daniele Papismedov conducted two experiments in the Mobile Behaviour Lab focused on choosing a fictitious hotel room among 11 room options. Participants viewed the information either on a desktop or on a mobile device. They viewed eight informational features about each room option on the PC display and only three on a mobile display. While all the information was available in both displays, it was more readily available on the PC display. The assignments to a specific device and to a specific display were independent of each other.

The experiments showed that when the same information was presented on both screens right upfront, equally accurate decisions were made. As a result, the research showed that participants made decisions that were less accurate and less aligned with their preferences as a consequence of the mobile display but not as a consequence of the mobile device.

Whether it is selecting a hotel room, a new outfit or a new TV, the researchers believe that shoppers will have a more accurate shopping experience in line with their preferences using a PC rather than a mobile-friendly format.

The research was supported by a grant from the Israel Science Foundation.

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