Bored queueing at the checkout, browsing for dinner inspiration, answering endless WhatsApp chats – there are lots of reasons why you might use your phone while shopping. But new research says it’s costing you money.
A study from the University of Bath found when shoppers use their mobile phones as they move around a store, they wander at a slower pace, walk down more aisles and are more likely to add extra products to their trolley.
In fact, every second you spend on your phone equates to an estimated 20-40 pence extra on your bill. Ouch.
The researchers looked at two studies from Sweden and analysed their findings: in the first study people added 45% more products to their basket and this rose to a whopping 58% more in the second study.
This may sound like a huge difference but researchers say it can be explained by how much a phone distracts you when you’re meant to be focused.
Smartphones not only take your attention so you end up wandering more aimlessly (and seeing shelves of goodies you would have otherwise walked straight past), but it also reportedly distracts you from your shopping list.
Exposure to a greater array of products jogs people’s memory about other things they’ve run out of at home and noticing new products inspires people to make extra purchases.
Dr Carl-Philip Ahlbom from Bath’s School of Management, said: “Retailers have tended to worry that when shoppers use their mobiles it’s distracting them from spending money, so we were amazed to find completely the reverse effect.
“The findings were very clear: the more time you spend on your phone, the more money you’ll part with. So if you’re trying to budget, leave your phone in your pocket!”
Even a small shop can stock as many as 10,000 lines of products – a huge quantity for the human brain to consciously process – so when we shop our brains go into a kind of autopilot.
The researchers say when we use our phone we interrupt this inner autopilot and we move and behave very differently, causing us to spend more money.
The Swedish studies were based on 294 shopping trips collected by consultancy firm Retail Academics, and a follow-up experiment by the Bath researchers of 120 shoppers, which replicated the shopping with and without mobile phones.
Although the study was based in a supermarket the researchers anticipate that the findings would hold out in other sectors such as fashion.
The one exception at the checkout where using a mobile phone protects shoppers from temptation. Here, researchers found people picked up fewer items than normal.