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Impulse buying fuelled by portable devices, study finds

05 September 2017 - 10:42 by Graham Miller

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A report published in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Sciences this month has revealed that consumers are far more likely to buy an item on impulse when carrying out safe shopping online from a device with a touchscreen display.

In comparison, desktop shoppers take a methodical, logical approach to each purchase, meaning that frivolity and spur of the moment decisions are more commonly taken on portable gadgets like smartphones and tablets.

Researchers believe that this has a lot to do with touchscreen technology itself, as the tactile nature of the interface is all about creating interactive experiences which engage consumers on a more primal level than the more complex, traditional mouse and keyboard combo.

The study involved tests in which consumers were given both touchscreen devices and standard PCs to visit sites which offer safe shopping online. The results showed that impulse purchases, such as vouchers for meals out and other one-time experiences, were dominant on portable platforms while desktop computers and laptops were more likely to encourage grocery shopping and practical purchases.

Experts argue that this puts the desktop experience of online shopping more in line with visits to bricks and mortar outlets, where shoppers tend to be more logical and considered in their actions. But of course retailers have attempted to encourage impulsiveness in their customers for decades, both in-store and online.

As more and more people use their smartphones as their primary internet portal, the number of impulsive purchases which are made could continue to increase. And for the time being there are no signs that touchscreen displays will be replaced on mobile devices by any other kind of interface, meaning the trends assessed in this report should hold true for the foreseeable future in the UK and worldwide.