A recent study has found those who check texts, peruse social media and chat on the phone while at the shops move slower through the aisles than those who leave the phone tucked away.
The distraction leads to people walking down more aisles than they need to, exposing them to more products and adding between 20 to 40 per cent to the bill.
Researchers from the University of Bath (UK), the Stockholm School of Economics, Babson College in Massachusetts and the University of Tennessee conducted the study examining shopping habits.
Shoppers wore eye-tracking technology that documented their vision in the study, monitoring where they looked while they walked the aisles.
How long they were in the store was also timed as well as the number of times they became “fixated” on a product, how they moved through the store, how much they spent and how much time they were on their phone.
The more time shoppers spent on their phone the longer they were in the store and the attention they gave to shelved items, the results showed.
The lack of focus means they moved away from their grocery lists or common paths.
Seeing more products because of walking more aisles means the consumer may be reminded of an item that’s running low at home or they’re simply seduced to buy something they didn’t intend to buy.
“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,” said retail marketing expert Carl-Philip Ahlbom of the University of Bath.
“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. It’s not the phone itself that causes more purchases but its impact on our focus.”
Dr Ahlbom said the findings weren’t necessarily a bad thing because a longer stroll through the store might remind shoppers of items they’d forgot they needed.
“It can introduce you to items that might make for a more inspiring menu,” he said.
“Shoppers are very habitual creatures, most of us vary our purchases by less than 150 items a year, so maybe you can thank your mobile for freshening things up.”
Retailers have a common fear customers being distracted on their phones purchases less, but the University of Bath’s Professor Jens Nordfält says businesses can now encourage and support the usage.
“Making it easy for customers to use their mobiles, with good Wi-Fi and enhancements like mobile phone docking stations on shopping trolleys, will more than pay off,” he said.
“The one exception is that using a mobile phone protects shoppers from temptation at the checkout. Here we found that people picked up fewer items than normal.”