Do mobile shoppers disclose more valuable data about themselves?
Presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article published with permission from Knowledge@Wharton, the online research and business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
New research from Wharton marketing professors finds people are more willing to share deeper and more personal information when communicating on a smartphone compared with a personal computer.
In their paper, “Full Disclosure: How Smartphones Enhance Consumer Self-Disclosure,” the professors, Shiri Melumad and Robert Meyer, explain that one reason is that smartphones’ small screens and keypads require laser-focused attention.
“Because it’s harder to complete a task on our phone, we tend to have to devote more cognitive resources to whatever we’re doing, narrowing our attention more intently on whatever task we’re doing on the device,” Dr. Melumad recently said on the Wharton Business Daily radio show on Sirius XM. “That means we also tend to simultaneously block out any distracting thoughts or external factors in our environment that might otherwise inhibit us from disclosing — for example, concerns about how others might react to what we’re sharing.
“If you’ve ever ridden on a subway or bus, you’ve probably seen people completely engrossed on their phones, and they’re often engaging in very personal activities, as if there’s no one else around them. That’s sort of the phenomenon.”
A second reason is that smartphones are always at hand. Past Wharton research found they act “like an adult pacifier” for individuals.
Said Dr. Melumad, “It makes us feel more psychologically comforted than when we engage in the exact same task on our laptops. And when I feel more psychologically comforted, I’m more willing to share information that is more intimate or personal.”
The findings relate to “pretty low-stakes disclosures,” such as survey responses and customer-generated restaurant reviews.
Implications for marketers include that smartphone-generated content may be more indicative of how consumers actually think and feel. As a result, smartphone-generated content reviews, for example, were found to be more persuasive to other customers. Said Dr. Melumad, “This implies that firms can identify which posts are more likely to influence other customers simply by identifying which device the posts were written on.”
Customers could also be encouraged to provide certain types of information or respond to certain types of sensitive questions on their phones, in particular.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does it make sense that people are more willing to share personal information on their smartphones than from their personal computers? Where do you see some practical implications of the findings for marketers?