London, Jan 8: Consumers hesitate using smartphones and tablets to buy goods online because they worry about not seeing the full picture on an app or missing out on special offers and overlooking hidden costs, a study has found.
Concerns about privacy and security can also motivate people to put items into their shopping baskets but then quit without paying, researchers said.
Although mobile apps are rapidly becoming among the most popular ways to shop online, the phenomenon of shopping cart abandonment is much higher than for desktop-based online shopping, they said.
According to Market Research firm Criteo, the share of e-commerce traffic from mobile devices increased to 46 per cent of global e-commerce traffic in 2016, researchers said.
However, only 27 per cent of purchases initiated on this channel were finalised and conversion rates significantly lagged behind desktop initiated purchases, they said.
Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK found that it represents a huge challenge for online retailers, who are investing heavily in mobile shopping, but not reaping the rewards in successful sales.
"Our study results revealed a paradox," said Nikolaos Korfiatis, of Norwich Business School at UEA.
"Mobile shopping is supposed to make the process easier, and yet concerns about making the right choice, or about whether the site is secure enough leads to an 'emotional ambivalence' about the transaction - and that mean customers are much more likely to simply abandon their shopping carts without completing a purchase," Korfiatis said.
The researchers studied online shopping data from 2016- 2017 from consumers in Taiwan and the US.
They found that the reasons for hesitation at the checkout stage were broadly the same in both countries.
In addition, shoppers are much more likely to use mobile apps as a way of researching and organising goods, rather than as a purchasing tool, and this also contributes to checkout hesitation.
"This is a phenomenon that has not been well researched, yet it represents a huge opportunity for retailers," said Flora Huang, lead author of the study published in the Journal of Business Research.
"Companies spend a lot of money on tactics such as pay- per-click advertising to bring consumers into online stores - but if those consumers come in via mobile apps and then are not finalising their purchases, a lot of that money will be wasted," Huang said.
The team's results showed that consumers are much less likely to abandon their shopping baskets if they are satisfied with the choice process.
App designers can help by minimising clutter to include only necessary elements on the device's limited screen space and organising sites via effective product categorisation or filter options so consumers can find products more easily.
Other strategies that might prompt a shopper to complete a purchase include adding special offers, or coupons for a nearby store at the checkout stage, researchers said.
Why people hesitate shopping on smartphone apps found