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Let's get in touch: the effects of touchscreens on shoppers' purchase intentions

Relevant topics Archive, Conversion

  • Neuromarketing Principle:
    Online shoppers that are using a touch interface to browse product information display greater engagement and purchase intentions.
  • Application:
    Segment the content of your webpages on touch vs. mouse devices, enhance engagement, and keep cognitive load low.
  • Ask yourself: when you want to buy a pair of shoes, what is the first thing you do?

    Chances are, you’ll start browsing for your favourite colour, your favourite brand. You’ll choose a few models you like, maybe order them online. Or first go to the shop to try them on and then, maybe browse some more to find the best prices. And finally, you buy a pair of shoes.

    For 87% of all shoppers, the buying process involves researching online before doing a purchase in a physical store.

    What are some typical characteristics of this buying process?

    • More than 79% of US consumers own at least one device with touch interface (Commodore, 2016)
    • For 87% of touch screen device owners, the buying process involves browsing on that device (Nielsen, 2014). The main reasons for this are finding the lowest price and comparing products (Interactions, 2014)
    • At least 10% to 15% of physical retail store sales are attributed to web rooming (i.e., viewing products online before going to the store) (Crate, 2017).
    • 62% uses their phone while in-store to research the products online (Criteo, 2017).



    But what is exactly the effect of browsing on a touch device rather than a desktop? Chung, Kramer and Wong set up a study to investigate just that.

    Touch chasing the mouse?

    In three experiments, the psychologists tested the impact of touch versus mouse devices on online shopper’s involvement, engagement and purchase intentions, affect, product choice, and purchase timing.

    As it turns out, online shoppers that are using a touch interface to browse product information are likely to display greater engagement, positive affect, and if so, also greater purchase intentions. These effects are increased when shopping for leisure (i.e., hedonic shopping. This is the contrary for utilitarian shoppers whose shopping is efficient and all about actual needs). On top of that, the effects on purchase intentions are even greater when cognitive load is low, meaning when the information is not too difficult to process. Using touch devices can really increase the purchase intentions, you just have to do it right!

    So how to use these findings? For starters, segment the visitors on your page! Are they on a touch device? Then – if you’re not doing so already -  present them a different version of your website. For example, increase the display of hedonic products for touch device visitors. Also, a special in-store page comes in handy when you want to make sure you deliver the right information at the right time. In sum, when your page is segmented, you can use the following advices to optimize your page and increase purchases.

    Engage more!

    The researchers found that touch interfaces result in higher engagement compared to mouse devices. When you want to use this engagement to raise purchase intentions, positive affect should be high and cognitive load should be low. Even though this research did not manipulate engagement (they only measured it), engagement and positive affect can still be manipulated. By you!

    Think about how to engage your visitors online. How do they scroll, what do they do to view a product? Can they - digitally - interact with the product? And are you making sure this gives them positive vibes? Engage your shopper by creating an interactive web shop: build a game, let them design their own products (this is exactly what Nike did with its Air Max) or ask them a question. Make sure these are positively framed so the positive affect is not lost.


    Did you know that almost 50% of mobile shoppers use their mobile phones 15 minutes prior to visiting a store? This touch point is an opportunity to remind consumers of any forgotten items, previous purchases, new deals or even a simple welcome message, specific to them. (https://www.newneuromarketing.com/the-three-essential-ingredients-to-winning-the-brains-of-mobile-shoppers)

    How to reduce cognitive load

    The researchers of this study manipulated cognitive load by shortening and simplifying the product description. When doing this for your own page, try to keep your page clean and keep the content obvious (sometimes even a bit predictable). Reduce visual clutter of objects and reduce the number of tasks that can be done on the page. For example, when at google.com, you’ll know exactly what to do. In addition, try to reduce the information the shopper has to remember. Again, exactly what Google does: making a visited link purple. Get this right and get your shoppers straight to the big red buy button!

    Shopping should be fun!

    As the researchers found, the increased purchase intentions on touch devices are even bigger when shopping for leisure. How to know if your customer is shopping for leisure? Of course it depends on the situation, but you can also bring your shopper in the mood for leisure shopping! For example, by showing them how the products can be used for leisure activities. Just add a nice holiday picture to the product photos and your consumer will happily continue shopping.

    So remember:

    • Segment the content of your webpages on touch vs mouse devices
    • Engage your customers to your page, make them happy!
    • But keep it simple! Short product descriptions are key in the increased effect on purchase intentions
    • Inducing the feeling of shopping for leisure can increase the positive purchase intentions of touch users


    There’s one discussion point I have to bring up as a neuro-enthusiast: The study of Chung assessed engagement using the User Engagement Scale, which is a self-assessed survey. But as you know, people don’t always say as they do, nor do as they say. That’s why EEG is a much better way to evaluate engagement. Do you want to know how this works? Read here: https://www.unravelresearch.com/en/eeg

  • Let's get in touch: the effects of touchscreens on shoppers' purchase intentions
  • Reference:

    Chung, S., Kramer, T., & Wong, E. M. (2018). Do touch interface users feel more engaged? The impact of input device type on online shoppers’ engagement, affect, and purchase decisions. Psychology & Marketing, 35(11), 795-806.


    Further Reading

    • How to create the perfect shelf based on product lightness

      How to create the perfect shelf based on product lightness

      Generally, when visiting a supermarket, you don't want to waste your precious time by searching for the products you're looking for. In order to help us making decisions, our brains have a few biases in their way of seeing things.

      We all know that marketeers are trying to get their products in the centre of a display, and that’s for a very good reason. However, new research shows that there’s another bias that influences our way of checking products. Apparently, our visual attention tends to automatically focus to the upper part of a display when we’re looking for a light-coloured product, and to the bottom for a dark coloured product.

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