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Mobile Commerce: How do mobile devices influence the purchasing decision?

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Mobile commerce leads to higher sales figures – and in some cases, surpasses desktop sales. But why is this the case? Today we will delve into the psychology behind mobile shopping and how our brain guides our decision-making processes.

When it comes to taking advantage of the impact of m-commerce, retailers should understand the factors that influence a customer’s decision to make a purchase. For starters, most customers shop via mobile due to the ease of use and convenience. For that reason, nowadays it’s essential that your online shop behave responsively on every end device. After all, for many customers, online shopping is mostly impulse-driven and done simultaneously with other activities (e.g. watching TV, eating, etc.).

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A report published by McKinsey reveals that 38% of respondents often shop on their mobile devices, whereas only 17% said they never use mobile to shop. Independently, we found in our annual Retailer Survey 2019 that 21 – 31% of total sales for a majority of the respondents come from mobile devices, with several others attributing sales figures as high as 31 – 50% to mobile.

A question of sales psychology: Do we make conscious decisions?

Adam Brasel and James Gips from Boston College found that if we use our own mobile devices to purchase products with a high haptic relevance (e.g. clothing), we purchase faster and are also willing to pay more money. At first this sounds logical, because how often do we press the "buy now" button just because we’re bored and have always wanted the product anyway? We like to think this is our main reasoning for making a purchase – but it is not the only one.

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What goes on in the mind of your customers when they buy something using the touchscreen?

The psychological effects behind mobile purchases

As a rule, we assume we rationally come to the decision to make a purchase. And even when we make spontaneous purchases, we still like to believe we’re in complete control of our decision-making processes. But it is not quite as simple as that, because our brain tends to play a quiet – albeit powerful – role in coming to these decisions.

Broken down to the basic structure, there are two powerful effects that unintentionally simplify our decision to make a purchase:

  • The psychological construct of property (psychological ownership)
  • The endowment effect

Trick 1: Psychological Ownership

You probably know an example from your own life that illustrates the effects of psychological ownership: Whether you are always sitting in the same train station on your way to work in the morning, always occupying your regular parking space in front of the office, or always exercising in the same corner of the gym – and it probably annoys you when somebody intrudes on this space and you’re forced to avoid them.

Trick 2: Endowment Effect

The endowment effect occurs when there is actual or psychological possession. It implies that we estimate the value of the objects we own to be higher than their actual value. Many people become aware of this when they sell something used and nobody wants to pay the suggested price.

Both effects influence purchasing behaviour

When customers shop on a smartphone or tablet, the act of touching the products on the touchscreen transfers the feeling of ownership from the mobile device (which they actually own) to the goods. The psychological ownership effect shows its impact here and entices users to buy faster. Added to this is the endowment effect, which makes users willing to pay a higher price.

Conclusion: mobile commerce pays off

It is valuable to know about these effects – even if it does not save you from falling for them yourself. For you as a shop operator, however, these effects are one more reason to continue or increase your investment in mobile commerce.