Market Research Shows That Consumers Most Often Buy Products They Touch

What Is the Endowment Effect in Shopping?

••• Touch it, and it's yours. Power Up the Endowment Effect. Getty Images | rolfo | Moment Collection

New research about online shopping shows that people are more likely to complete a purchase when they are shopping on a tablet or a device with a touch screen.  Touchscreens encourage consumers to purchase more. Why is that?  This article will explore the influence that shopping on mobile devices has on the path to purchase

Online Shopping Behavior Is Influenced by Device Interfaces

Researchers have studied the role of touch in marketing and sales for years.

  The introduction of touchscreens and touchpads has increased the amount of research being done on the influence of touching products on purchase behavior. Consumers may not respond the same to all types of touch-based interfaces. 

Considerable research focuses on the preferences of consumers to different advertisements and marketing strategies. Because the field is new, researchers are just now beginning to explore how the new interfaces that consumers use impact their decision to purchase.  Scientists estimate that this line of research could be as important as research about the content and appearance of ads and online shopping.

Current research findings show that when they are shopping online, consumers must filter their perceptions through the displays on their screens. Consumers respond to visual or tactile attributes of the interfaces shown on the screens of their devices.  When consumers are shopping, the interface acts a lens.

Their touch-based devices contribute to consumers’ tendency to value products more than they do when they see the same products on a traditional mouse-driven desktop computer.

Touch-based interfaces are important to marketing in several ways:

  • Touching a product before purchase increases the consumer’s sense of ownership.
  • Perceived psychological ownership magnifies the endowment effect
  • Endowment effect = People value an item more highly from the first moment of ownership.
  • Touch-based interfaces interact with the haptics of products.

What Is the Endowment Effect?

Objects seem to be endowed with higher perceived value the moment they become something that someone owns. This is what is meant by the "endowment effect." This sense of elevated value is independent of the length of time that an object has been owned. Endowment effect may not even be related to the actual monetary value of the item owned. In laboratory studies, people were partial to items they had just been given moments before.  Indeed, the subjects were asked, "How much would you want for the [name of item]?" and  attributed such high values to the items that it fell just short of ludicrous.

What Are Haptics? Product Haptics Are Your Next New Best Friend

Haptics [hap-tiks] noun, (used with a singular verb)

1. The branch of psychology that investigates information that is perceived through the skin (cutaneous sense data).

Now That You Know:

How does this information translate to owners of small businesses or home businesses who want to sell online?


  1. Gear Up to Mobile Digital Device Apps - If you have an e-commerce website, but it isn't configured for mobile apps consider next steps.  Participate in a commercial e-commerce selling venture. Or hire a programmer to develop applications to sell your products on mobile devices.
  2. Configurations That Encourage Touch - Consult with a developer to explore options on your web pages that encourage consumers to use their touch screens to manipulate the images of the items you sell. Consumers should be able to enlarge images and roll around images to see different aspects of the projects close up.  The idea is to get consumers to do the same sorts of actions when shopping that they typically do when the use their smartphones or iPods.
  3. Use Language That Evokes Touching - If your budget doesn't permit the development of sophisticated apps, pepper your website content with touch evocative language. The research on touch-based interfaces indicates that when consumers can imagine touching a product, they experience the same sense of ownership.  When consumers touch an item they experience a possessive feeling that generates the Endowment Effect.