Too stressed to make smart purchases? Multitasking can affect shopping performance

November 15, 2016, New York University

For all the wonders of mobile communications, the ability to multitask via phone while shopping in a store may not be a blessing, according to new research. Studies show that shoppers engaged in a mobile phone conversation while trying to shop are less successful at the shopping task at hand.

In "When and How Multitasking Impacts Consumer Shopping Decisions," Professors A. Selin Atalay of the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management and H. Onur Bodur of Concordia University, along with Etienne Bressoud of the BVA Group, explored how affects shopping , that is, a consumer's ability to accomplish their shopping plans.

The authors set up shopping scenarios that controlled for the distraction of multitasking and for the mindset of the participants. In one study, participants were asked to purchase low-calorie snacks for a get-together. They were asked to imagine that they were shopping to buy three different snacks to share with a friend with whom they were traveling. They were told that both they and the friend were on a diet, and did not want to consume more than 500 calories on snacks per day. Thus, they needed to choose snacks that totaled 500 calories or less. Plus, they were on a tight budget. Some were asked to listen to a voicemail message from a friend at the same time as they completed the assigned shopping task.

The authors made certain to determine whether the participants in each situation were in a deliberative, or "why," mindset versus an implementing, or "how," mindset, because the former requires more cognitive resources while the latter are more intent on completing the task. Their results showed that while the more determined "how" shoppers were minimally affected by multitasking, the performance of the "why" mindset shoppers suffered, with their purchases tending to exceed the caloric limit imposed.

The authors suggest that multitasking for those in the "why" may lead to faster, less careful decisions in this case, resulting in higher total calories of the chosen. They attribute this effect to a degree of mental stress induced by the distraction of multitasking.

The managerial implication for retailers, they conclude, is that, given the prevalence of multitasking, retailers should consider ways to reduce stress in the shopping environment.

Explore further: An apple a day brings more apples your way

Related Stories

An apple a day brings more apples your way

April 29, 2015

We have all been told not to grocery shop on an empty stomach, but what other tips can help us shop, and consequently eat, healthier? Cornell researchers Aner Tal, PhD and Brian Wansink, PhD (author of Slim by Design: Mindless ...

If you build it, they will come

August 1, 2016

In a perfect grocery-shopping world, the supermarket where you usually shop would have an online presence that perfectly mirrored its bricks-and-mortar store, with the same selection of products and a minimal online-offline ...

Think again before tapping the install button for that app

October 19, 2015

Before installing a new app on a mobile device, people need to be mindful of the security risks. One poor decision can bypass the most secure encryption, and a malicious app can gain access to confidential information or ...

Recommended for you

Fat from 558 million years ago reveals earliest known animal

September 20, 2018

Scientists from The Australian National University (ANU) and overseas have discovered molecules of fat in an ancient fossil to reveal the earliest confirmed animal in the geological record that lived on Earth 558 million ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.