Put down the phone and tablet, and browse on your desktop computer to curb impulse buys, says science
Touchscreens are swiping our willpower.
You’re more likely to make an impulse buy when shopping on a tablet or mobile phone versus a desktop computer, according to new research from the University of British Columbia.
Almost half of all e-commerce will be conducted through touchscreens by next year thanks to the globe’s 2 billion smartphone users, lead researcher and professor Ying Zhu noted in her report. So she and her coauthor conducted three different experiments on students to investigate how devices fuel our splurges, and they found:
- Touchscreen users are more likely to make hedonistic (guilty-pleasure) purchases, while desktop users are more likely to make utilitarian (practical) purchases.
- Shoppers browsing through products by swiping and tapping screens receive “sensual feelings and tactile feedback” through their fingers, which encourages indulgences. But using a keyboard or a mouse with a desktop is a more removed interaction, so the shopper stays in a more rational frame of mind. Hence, you order contact lenses instead of a massage Groupon.
- When given a choice between whether to spend $15 on something fun (two movie tickets and two soft drinks) or something useful (a salon shampoo and cut), the touchscreen users chose the date night, while the desktop users opted for the haircut.
More than 88% of American adults have given into an impulsive buy online, according to a new survey from personal finance site Finder.com, averaging $81.45 per shopping session, and adding up to a whopping $17.78 billion altogether.
Finder.com’s consumer advocate Jennifer McDermott wrote that she anticipates people to continue splurging as online retailers become more competitive and more convenient. With Amazon Prime’s 1-click setting, for example, tapping a single tab charges your credit card and delivers your buy to your door within two days. The instant gratification doesn’t give you any time to consider whether you need this thing or not. And 44.5% of survey respondents suffered impulse buyers’ remorse.
The Finder.com report said FOMO is also triggering us to buy now, with about 52.5% of surveyors saying they purchased on impulse so they wouldn’t miss out on a deal or something that might sell out.
And it’s so much easier to buy into those fears on a touchscreen. “The playful and fun nature of the touchscreen enhances consumers’ favor of hedonic products; while the logical and functional nature of a desktop endorses the consumers’ preference for utilitarian products,” concluded Zhu. “My advice for consumers who want to save a bit of money is to put away the smartphone when you have [the] urge to spend on a guilty pleasure.”
Finder.com has also launched Icebox, a free Chrome extension to beat impulse buying by replacing the “buy” button on 400 retail sites, including Amazon, Groupon and Best Buy, with a suggestion to put the goodies on ice for three to 30 days, giving you a chance to cool off and decide whether or not you really want or need this item, rather than buying it in the heat of the moment.
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