During the last 10 years, the mobile revolution has completely changed the way consumers are experiencing the web. Smartphones have increased access to the Internet, thus making online content pervading each moment of consumers’ lives. Consumers use their mobile devices while watching tv, commuting to their job, cooking, driving (even if it is extremely dangerous!), and even while using the bathroom.  


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Marketers usually already know the most obvious consequences of this revolution: consumers can be reached on the go, they can be connected to offerings that are close to their position, and marketers can collect more data about their habits.

However, mobile devices have more profound consequences on consumer decisions. The association of mobile devices with specific situations makes consumers develop a special “mobile mindset” that is activated every time they make decisions on their mobile devices. Therefore, given that consumers will make different decisions on their mobile devices, marketers need to know the deeper processes that drive these consumer decisions to optimize their efforts.


Four basic properties of mobile devices:

  • Mobility: Mobile devices, by definition, can be used while moving. They can be used outdoor, while traveling, or while doing groceries. Therefore, smartphones pervade consumers’ life in any situation, even when they are in uncomfortable and unfamiliar environments.
  • Urgency: Smartphones demand urgent actions from consumers; they ask you to read the message, to answer the email, to pick up the call, and so on. Mobile devices, therefore, prime consumers with quick and urgent actions.
  • Quick information: Related to the previous factors, consumers are more likely to use mobile devices for information that they need immediately and everywhere. For example, consumers are more likely to use smartphones for minor information searches, that however they must be performed very quickly to be valuable for the consumer. The consequence of this phenomenon is the so-called “brain in the pocket” effect: being always able to google something lowers overall mnemonic and cognitive abilities.
  • Distractibility: Smartphones are distracting. They not only distract consumers from the tasks they have to perform (like driving), but they even distract them from the activities that they are performing with the smartphones themselves. Have you ever opened your phone to look for some information and you find yourself scrolling your Instagram feed for 2 hours? In the long run, constant mobile multitasking makes consumers less able to concentrate on any task.
  • Stress Reduction: Mobile devices can reduce stress, particularly if consumers are in uncomfortable situations. Have you ever watched your phone without a real reason when you were facing a stressful situation? This phenomenon has been called the “adult pacifier effect” of smartphones.


Consequences of the mobile mindset on consumer behavior.

  • Keep it Dumb-Proof: The mobile mindset makes consumers more likely to be action-oriented, short-term-focused, and faster decision-makers. Therefore, you may want to create specific content for mobile consumers, that sacrifices fancy options or long-term appeals for simplified, fast, and effortless decision processes.
  • Mobile Users Generate Lower-Quality Content. Consumers are creating more and more marketing-relevant content on their smartphones. However, given the “mobile mindset” makes them distracted and oriented towards immediate gratification, content created with mobile devices has lower overall quality. For example, tweets and online reviews created by mobile users are shorter and less valuable for other consumers. Therefore, you may want to create special precautions when you ask consumers to create content on mobile phones.
  • Mobiles Trigger Sharing Intimate Experiences: It may seem counterintuitive, but consumers are more likely to share intimate and personal experiences on their mobile devices. Since mobile devices are always physically close to you, they are also associated with something personal and intimate. This self-focus aspect of the mobile mindset makes consumers more likely to use smartphones for personal and intimate sharing. For example, when consumers answer a questionnaire or write online content, they are more likely to be more sincere and share more intimate experiences. Marketing researchers looking for information about intimate and embarrassing content may want to use mobile phones to collect this information.
  • Mobile is Emotional: Emotionality is an intrinsic part of the mobile mindset. Consumers are more likely to use their “gist” when making mobile decisions and they are more likely to share more emotional and more affective words when they share information. Therefore, you may want to create emotional content for mobile users, or you may want to prefer more cognitive and detailed content for desktop users. Finally, marketing research managers may want to avoid mobile users if they are interested in the non-emotional aspects of a product.


Take away:

Mobile users develop a “mobile mindset” that makes them more short-term oriented, more self-focused, more emotional, and that lowers their overall cognitive abilities. Marketers should create mobile content that is tailored to the mobile mindset, and marketing research managers can use mobile devices if they want to retrieve intimate and emotional experiences.



The term NOMOPHOBIA or NO MObile PHone PhoBIA is used to describe a psychological condition when people have a fear of being detached from mobile phone connectivity. If you think you have a smartphone addiction, you can find helpful resources here.


Monthly Consumer Discoveries is a Monthly newsletter that brings you the most interesting updates in consumer behavior research.




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