Mobile Shopping Not That Good; Bring Back The Desktop


How many online stores have you clicked on recently that haven’t converted their format to mobile shopping applications? It is becoming a bit frustrating to get the information you need in an effective and timely way. The screen is too small and you need to zoom in and out to read the reviews.  Your eyes easily get tired when focusing on the smaller graphics and price comparison is nearly impossible.

Guess what? You are not alone struggling to place the right order via your smartphone. On the other end of the transaction, retailers are struggling too as the orders they receive through mobile devices are not that diverse and are often limiting their revenues. 

Now researchers from Northwestern University have unearthed some provocative facts on how consumers utilize their mobile devices to buy groceries. Their findings should convince retailers planning marketing strategies and advertising campaigns that they need to pay attention to mobile shopping trends. On the other hand, online shoppers will acknowledge that the variety they need is hard to find and price comparison is confusing. 

Customers who adopted mobile technology for their grocery shopping shopped more often and placed larger orders, the research shows. The data was collected between 2011 and 2013 from an Internet-only retail grocery retailer. Although 70 percent of transactions with the grocery stores were still being conducted via personal computer during this period, researchers were able to identify key patterns among customers who were increasingly opting for mobile shopping.

In “On the Go: How Mobile Shopping Affects Customer Purchase Behavior,” published in the Journal of Retailing, doctoral student Rebecca Jen-Hui Wang and marketing professors Edward C. Malthouse and Lakshman Krishnamurthi explored changes in customers’ spending patterns after adopting mobile shopping (M-shopping) via smartphones or tablets to compose, modify, or place grocery orders online.

In one key finding, when customers used smartphones or tablets, whether in addition to or in place of, PCs, they spent more sessions shopping for groceries, perhaps composing their shopping list on the PC and later ordering via the mobile device. As the authors note, this finding suggests that M-shopping can lead to additional touch points between the M-shopper and the retailer.

Another finding was that low spenders in particular shop more often and place larger orders after adapting to mobile shopping. Watch your bank account!

More generally, when customers shop on mobile devices, they tend either to purchase items they have purchased before — such as milk, pet food, and cereal — or from companies they’re familiar with.

The relatively small size of smartphone screens may discourage people from exploring unfamiliar items or brands, the authors theorize, and for this reason they suggest that firms focus on other channels, in addition to mobile, when launching new products.


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