Smartphones push consumers to prefer a customizable purchasing experience

Jul 5, 2023

2 min

Aner Sela

In a world where purchasing is only a click away, studies have shown that smartphones complicate the most preferred items.

Aner Sela, a professor in UF’s Warrington College of Business conducted a new study that discovered consumers who are captivated by their phones gravitate towards specialized, custom products.

Compared to large computers or borrowing someone’s phone, an individual’s phone sparks privatized feelings that allow stronger self-expression and strengthens our unconscious preference for a customized consumer journey.

Working alongside Camilla Song, an assistant professor at City University of Hong Kong, Sela published their findings in the Journal of Marketing Research in early August.

“When you use your phone, your authentic self is being expressed to a greater extent. That affects the options you seek and the attitudes you express,” said Sela, one of the authors of the study.

The researchers suspected that smartphones encourage people to reflect on their inner identity, calling on the psychological state of private self-focus that affects all kinds of behaviors.

“People with high levels of private self-focus tend to be more independent in the attitudes that they express. They conform less,” the UF professor said. “When they make choices, they tend to choose based on privately or deeply held beliefs, preferences or tastes, and they’re less influenced by social contexts.”

Sela and Song chose to test if smartphones have the capability to promote enough private self-focus that it changes behavioral patterns, so they performed five experiments with undergraduates and online respondents.

The study found that smartphone users were more likely to choose unique, tailored products rather than large ones than if the user hopped on a large computer.

These results vanished if the user was given another phone from the same brand, suggesting that companies should alter their consumer suggestions based on the device they are using.

The professor and her former doctoral student found the self-expression mindset likely to cause behavioral changes can be activated by the use of a smartphone.

“With a borrowed phone, it doesn’t feel like you’re in your own little bubble. What we find is the use of smartphones and its activation of private self-focus is really unique to a personal device,” Sela said.

By Halle Burton 

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Aner Sela

Aner Sela


Aner Sela is an expert on how people make choices and form preferences.

Value PerceptionTechnology and Consumer ChoiceChoice DifficultyInferences and AttributionsDecision Making

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