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How mobile shopping habits differ around the world, from Brazil to Australia

Written by Narongsak (Tek) Thongpapanl, Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies & Professor of Marketing and Product Innovation, Brock University

Mobile commerce (m-commerce) platforms often operate in several international markets. M-commerce managers often focus on which features should be kept constant and which should be adapted to specific characteristics of national markets.

Consider, for instance, an m-commerce platform designed for Australian consumers. To what extent should it be adapted when it’s introduced in Brazil? Are the tastes and needs of consumers in Australia similar to those of consumers in Brazil?

These are the questions that motivate and drive a series of multinational m-commerce studies conducted by Goodman School of Business researchers and their global colleagues.

By using and interacting with an m-commerce platform, consumers form their perceptions of its positive and negative attributes based on value perceptions. Our team of researchers have found that value perceptions fall under five major categories when it comes to m-commerce.

Five value categories

To illustrate, imagine that Jackie wants to buy a new bicycle. She downloads a retailer’s app to search for product information (informational value). If she finds a good deal, the app may help her save money (monetary value). Jackie then thanks her friend who recommended the app, and now they have something in common to discuss (social value). In addition, Jackie did not have to visit several retailers to decide what to buy, so the app also helped her save time (convenience value). Finally, Jackie can check off buying a new bicycle from her to-do list (performance value).

A Woman Wearing A Mask Looks At Her Phone
A woman wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 reads from her mobile phone in Putrajaya, Malaysia, in October 2020.
(AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

Consumers are motivated to use the m-commerce platform according to these value perceptions. These motivations can be either hedonic and utilitarian. While some consumers are motivated to use mobile platforms platform because they’re enjoyable and fun, others are motivated because the platform is functional and efficient.

These value perceptions and motivations explain how consumers use m-commerce. For some, the use of m-commerce has an intentional nature in that they must think about whether using it to fulfil a certain goal is a good option.

The Uber Eats App On A Smartphone.
The Uber Eats app is seen on an iPhone.
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

For instance, when ordering food, these consumers may take some time to decide whether to order from the app or call the restaurant directly. In contrast, others tend to have a more habitual use of m-commerce in that they do not even have to think about what to do. For those consumers, opening the app and ordering food is an automatic process that does not need much consideration.

M-commerce appreciation

Based on a survey of almost 2,000 consumers across multiple countries, we have found that virtually all consumers appreciate m-commerce as a source of informational, social, performance and convenience value. Surprisingly, except for consumers in India and Brazil, consumers do not seem to rely on m-commerce because it helps them save money.

We find that consumers’ m-commerce experience can be vastly different depending on their “m-commerce readiness” stages. Everyone has a tech-savvy friend who is extremely comfortable using their smartphones for virtually anything. They pay their bills, buy products and make restaurant reservations on their phones. Interestingly, m-commerce-ready consumers are more prevalent in developed countries (Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Singapore).

A Man'S Hands Are Seen Using A Smartphone.
Consumers comfortable with m-commerce are more prevalent in developed countries.
(Piqsels)

At the same time, everyone also has a tech-resistant friend who prefers to do things the old-fashioned way. They either pay their bills in person, at an ATM or perhaps even from their desktop computers, but never from a smartphone. Such consumers are more prevalent in developing countries (Brazil, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Vietnam).

For managers of international m-commerce applications, here is news they can use: Differences between developed and developing countries reveal varied experiences. The more m-commerce-ready consumers in developed countries use m-commerce platforms not only because they are efficient, but also because they are fun and enjoyable.

Fun elements are critical

For these consumers, using m-commerce can be a deliberate as well as an automatic process. As such, m-commerce solutions that present innovative designs and fun elements and that elicit habitual use may be preferable.

In contrast, the more m-commerce-resistant consumers in developing countries are mostly motivated by efficiency. For them, m-commerce is essentially transactional and functional. They don’t feel comfortable enough with m-commerce platforms to use them out of habit.

Since reluctant consumers do not tend to habitually use m-commerce, managers are encouraged to highlight its superiority to other commerce platforms.

But these insights aren’t carved in stone. Our findings suggest that the perceptions and motivations of consumers in the developing world are shifting to become more similar to those of consumers in the developed world. So as consumers in developing countries become more m-commerce-ready, these apps should experiment with more innovative designs and encourage their habitual use.

This article by Narongsak (Tek) Thongpapanl, Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies & Professor of Marketing and Product Innovation, Brock University, originally published on The Conversation is licensed under Creative Commons 4.0 International(CC BY-ND 4.0).

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