How smart are you with your smart phone?

In the age of the smart phone, how smart are the mobile shoppers who use these almost ubiquitous devices? A study from South Korea published in the International Journal of Mobile Communications hopes to answer that question.

Thae Min Lee of the Department of Business Administration, at Chungbuk National University, South Korea, and colleagues suggest that the received wisdom, particularly among mobile consumers, is that they can browse for and purchase items with a greater sense of efficacy compared with traditional shoppers. However, the researchers have looked at the emotive responses of purportedly smart shoppers when faced with price promotions and suggest that impulse buying rather than smart decision making is predominant.

“Smart phones have changed consumers’ everyday lives,” the team says. There have been many changes in consumer behaviour related to the ease with which information can now be acquired even while on the move. Moreover, the sharing of information is even more facile now so that consumers feel empowered by their access to social networking sites, customer-driven product review sites and other online sources of information, all accessible via their smart phones.

Earlier surveys of users of smart phones and tablet computers suggest that consumers are led by the devices in that they make more impulse purchases because the buying process is so easy. Lee and colleagues have investigated the emotive aspects of being a “smart” consumer – buying satisfaction, self-confidence, impulse buying, purchase regret and other dimensions of mobile shopping.

The current research suggests that many consumers, believing they are smart shoppers, are making more impulse purchases based on price promotions and the like. Ease of access to online shopping apps and sites as opposed to the need to make a trip to a shopping mall or supermarket has led to the illusion of control. Those people who do the most mobile shopping believe they have more knowledge and know-how about shopping than traditional shoppers and feel that they are saving more time, money and effort, which in some cases they may well be. However, if they are making purchases of unnecessary goods and luxuries that they would normally not make, then they are inevitably wasting money regardless of the savings coupon, online cashback or other price promotion.

Park, C., Jun, J.K. and Lee, T.M. (2015) ‘Do mobile shoppers feel smart in the smartphone age?’, Int. J. Mobile Communications, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp.157–171.

Author: David Bradley

Award-winning, freelance science writer based in Cambridge, England.