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Playing on Your Phone at the Store Could Make You Buy More Junk

New research shows that your phone could even cause you to forget items you actually meant to buy.

5. 6. 19 by Kristin Houser
Victor Tangermann
Image by Victor Tangermann

Cellular Hang Up

Want to leave the store with exactly what you planned to buy? You might want to consider setting your smartphone to “Do Not Disturb.”

A new study has found that shoppers who use phones for tasks unrelated to retail tend to purchase items they didn’t plan to buy or forget ones they did — a startling example of how the ubiquity of mobile devices may be impacting the decision making of entire populations.

Grocery List

For the shopping study, which was published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science on Monday, an international team of researchers surveyed 2,520 shoppers as they left a “mass merchandiser” and found that those who used their phones for shopping-unrelated tasks while in the store bought 9 percent more unplanned items.

The researchers then conducted an experiment in which they asked 231 participants to watch a video recorded from the point of view of a grocery shopper who placed nine items in their cart, but picked up and put down several others.

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Some participants listened to a shopping-unrelated phone conversation while watching some or all of the video, and others received push notifications in the corner of the screen. Another group didn’t encounter any distractions.

Shopping While Distracted

The researchers found that the participants who completed the task without any shopping-unrelated phone use did a better job of noting which items from a list of 15 actually made it into the cart than those who listened to the phone call or saw the push notifications.

Additionally, participants who self-identified as being more dependent on their phones also performed worse on the task.

“Mobile phones are quickly becoming the principal distractor for many consumers and they offer a unique form of interruption,” researcher Michael Sciandra said in a press release. “Our findings may influence consumers’ attitudes towards mobile phone use while shopping and persuade them to reflect on how these devices impact our lives, both positively and negatively.”

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READ MORE: Using a mobile while browsing the shelves may make shoppers buy more [Science Daily]

More on shopping: Five Ideas That Could Save Shopping Malls From Becoming Obsolete


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