How does smartphone shopping differ from laptop shopping?

Sep 07, 2022

A new university study finds that the intimate nature of a smartphone causes consumers to reflect inward, elevating their preference for unique and self-expressive options while shopping, versus when buying products on a laptop.

The highly private and personalized feelings consumers have toward their phones lead them to reach a psychological state known as “private self-focus,” according to researchers at the University of Florida.

“When you use your phone, your authentic self is being expressed to a greater extent. That affects the options you seek and the attitudes you express,” said Aner Sela, a professor in UFA’s Warrington College of Business, in a statement.

across five experiments, subjects shopping with their own smartphones were found to prefer more unique items rather than popular ones, as well as more products that they were told had been tailored to their personality than if they used a larger computer or even a borrowed phone.

“With a borrowed phone, it doesn’t feel like you’re in your own little bubble,” Prof. Sela said.

The findings lend credence to efforts by retailers to alter what they offer to consumers depending on what device they are using.

As they have become ubiquitous, mobile phones have been criticized for creating distractions while driving and walking as well as during meals and other everyday conversations. San Diego State University research last year found loneliness among teens around the globe had skyrocketed over the prior decade as increased smartphone usage tended to replace more emotionally-engaged in-person interactions.

Research at the same time has found individuals express their views more freely when using their phones and the mere presence of their device can create a sense of control and comfort. The deep attachment is most evident from the panic that often sets in when an individual breaks or loses their mobile devices.

Kostadin Kushlev, a psychology professor at Georgetown University who has studied the role of digital technology in health and wellbeing, told The Washington Post, “They are very personal devices, more so than any other device, and with us all the time. From that perspective, we see them as an extension of ourselves.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does it make sense that making choices using a personal smartphone, compared with a laptop, tends to increase the preference for unique and self-expressive options? Should retailers and direct-to-consumer brands alter what they offer for purchase based on the device being used to shop their websites?

Braintrust

“Retailers and DTC brands can easily fall into the trap of over analyzing this stuff.”

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