Recently, I came across an illuminating study in Mobile Marketing Association which revealed user perceptions of desktop, mobile, and in-person experiences. In his study, Moutusy Maity reviewed the experiences of 162 participants of less than 30 years of age with family incomes of $100,000+, in order to test how people feel about mobile commerce. Considering their income level and ages, it’s easy to conclude the participants were chosen because of their likely experience purchasing items via mobile phone. The results of this study might surprise you. In the table below, you can see that 68.67% of participants felt negatively about the m-commerce experience, as opposed to 87.32% who had a positive experience with e-commerce, and 61.43% who felt the in-store experience was a positive one.

It’s important to note from the data that when it came to convenience, m-commerce ranked the highest at 5.62%. When one factors in the difficulty in decision-making (24.1% negative), the overabundance of information (24.10%), the physical and emotional discomfort experienced (3.61% and 3.21%, respectively), it seems clear that the only reason users prefer mobile device commerce is because of convenience.

The data shows that users are overwhelmed by the amount of information provided on m-commerce and experience physical discomfort from the long interaction with the smaller device. They believed that e-commerce provides them the best price on products (which influences their likelihood of purchasing via that platform, and when it comes to product selection, users were nearly 8x more likely to purchase via e-commerce and almost 10x more likely to purchase in-person. A user preference for product selection in-person is not surprising since decisions are easier when one is facing the product.

But, it’s clear from the data (overwhelming information, discomfort, etc.) that mobile users feel less able to make a qualified decision (which would then result in a purchase) on mobile devices.

The conclusions drawn by the researchers were that users overwhelmingly prefer e-commerce over m-commerce. M-commerce requires attention to the unique needs of its users. A one-size-fits-all approach will not provide users the positive experience they need to complete a purchase.

Maity raises some thoughtful points to consider when engaging in m-commerce:

  • Will the mobile user be comfortable while performing tasks?
  • How often will they actually use mobile for completing a task (as opposed to desktop)? This is an important consideration before funding more mobile features.
  • Because of the higher cognitive cost associated with m-commerce, you need to simplify the experience as much as possible for the user.
  • Due the emotional stress experience by mobile users, it’s important to limit the amount of information provided. For example, one common practice is for companies to push the exact same content from desktop to mobile devices, but depending on the volume, it’s possible to overwhelm mobile users.

One of the reasons I wanted to share this study is because the discomforts experienced by the users cited in the survey mirrors my own experiences. For example, when I’m using my mobile phone to shop or book travel, I only use it to get an idea of what is actually available. I might check out a few flights or hotels, read a handful of reviews, or skim some suggested products. But, I have a threshold of about 20 minutes before I get a headache, and switch to my laptop. The only purchases I make on mobile phone is pizza delivery because the apps are so simple to use that it never takes me more than a few taps to get a pizza ordered and on its way. Otherwise, I find ordering via mobile is too time-consuming and makes it too easy for me to make mistakes on purchases.

What about you? Do you have any experiences to share? How do you prefer to shop (e-commerce, m-commerce, in-person), and does it depend on the type of purchase you plan to make?

Comment below to share your insights and experiences.


Moutusy Maity. “Critical Factors of Consumer Decision-Making on M-Commerce: A Qualitative Study in the United States.” Mobile Marketing Association. Winter 2010. Vol. 5. No. 2. (87-101).