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Impact of Mobile Device Use on Impulse Buying

Updated on April 13, 2016
Mobile Internet
Mobile Internet

Mobile Penetration in the United States

According to Statistica, the worldwide user penetration of mobile phone internet stood at 52.7% in 2015, a figure that is expected to rise to 63.4% by 2017. This essentially means that more and more people are preferring to access online content via mobile devices. The statistics portal went on to say that while US B2C ecommerce was worth $58.5 billion in 2013, it has been projected to grow to achieving the $200 billion mark by 2018. In fact, Cision revealed that nearly half the smartphone users in the US were using shopping apps as early as 2012. So, it has been established beyond a doubt that people have taken to shopping on their smartphones like fish to water. But why should this have any impact on impulse buying.

Mobile Internet Searches
Mobile Internet Searches

Smartphones & Ecommerce

To be technically correct, it really is m-commerce, when you access ecommerce via your smartphone. And according to Internet Retailer, m-commerce accounted for 30% of US ecommerce in 2015 and was projected to grow nearly thrice as fast as overall ecommerce in the United Stated through the year. Monetarily speaking, in 2015, US m-commerce sales were worth a total of $104.05 billion, from $75.03 billion in 2014, with Internet Retailer project another 15% growth in 2016 to $350.64 billion. Total monthly visits via a smartphone to the US Mobile 500 merchants rose 68.3% in 2015 to 3.03 billion visits. Now that we’ve established the popularity of m-commerce, let’s take a look at impulse buying and how it related to mobile devices.

Mobile Shopping
Mobile Shopping
Impulse Buying
Impulse Buying

Impulse Buying

Study on impulse buying, by Andrea Kruszka of the American University, published in 2012, stated, “Because consumers' intention to purchase is often connected to psychological factors, when consumers are faced with a wide variety of purchase choices, they must depend on impulses to make decisions.” Research over the years has shown that there is an “inner impulsivity” in the consumer, which is crucially linked to the “intention to purchase.” However, when we talk of an impulsive purchase, we mean that the purchase was unplanned. Merchants have been using this impulsivity to their advantages for a long time now. For instance, supermarkets quickly learned that placing candy where people wait in line for the cashier leads to increased purchase of candy.

Mobile Conversion Rates
Mobile Conversion Rates
Television Shopping
Television Shopping

Tapping into the Impulse

The television shopping phenomenon is perhaps the most appropriate example of merchants tapping into the impulse. A study done way back in 2004 by Park & Lennon, published in the Clothing and Textile Research Journal, revealed that “this new purchasing behavior” emerged in the mid-to-late 1980s, with the launch of networks like QVC and the Home Shopping Network. The researchers found that there were both utilitarian and hedonic motivations to television shopping. Not only was the consumer motivated by the convenience of shopping from home, but that they were able to save on money, time and effort. However, the study also found that people would buy items they had no intention to purchase, had not planned on buying or even needed to buy, only because of “a favorable parasocial interaction.” The same holds true for today’s mobile internet. This is what an article on Think You’re Saving Money with Groupon? Think Again, published in 2011 by GoBankingRates, had to say. The article explored the daily deals concept, especially those published on social media platforms and found that there was a close relationship between these daily deal messages and impulse buying.


How Ecommerce Has Reacted

To tap into this immense potential, online retailers have started to use the evolving mobile technology to their advantage. Several ecommerce operators have launched their own applications and mobile commerce sites, that are specifically designed to enhance customer experience on mobile devices, says an article on the Impact of Mobile Devices on Ecommerce, published by Mobile Marketer. This has meant investments in terms of time, money and effort because such sites were originally built for PCs, which makes it difficult to load and navigate them on a smartphone. And, given that impulse buying is all about convenience, the customer experience has a major role to play. Today, one can find and compare prices, read reviews, locate stores and even access discount coupons all on their mobile device. According to Troy Container Lines, this has also meant that merchants should have the capacity to cater to a global consumer base. This means that being able to find warehouses to that can stock inventories and means for easy and prompt shipments has become the need of the day for e-tailers. The battle to win more and more consumers is only going to get tougher here on in.

Impulse Buying
Impulse Buying


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