With the rapid advancement of mobile technology and the ICT environment, the smartphone has become the primary platform for e-commerce [1
]. According to the 2018 Global M-Commerce report published by [2
], 54% of global e-commerce sales are expected to be made through smartphones by 2021. A large volume of research on mobile commerce has covered the topic in a wide range of areas. Ngai and Gunasekaran [3
] classified literature on mobile commerce into five categories, including applications and cases, wireless user infrastructure, mobile middleware, wireless network infrastructure, and consumer behavior. In more recent literature, Ahmad and Ibrahim [4
] suggested interface design guidelines to enhance the user experience in mobile commerce. Although mobile commerce has a lot in common with online commerce, consumers behave differently when they shop on their smartphones than when they do on their computers because their behaviors are influenced by screen size. They use a significantly smaller-sized screen when shopping in a mobile context compared to when they shop in an online context [5
]. As such, researchers often suggest that mobile commerce designers ease consumers’ cognitive burdens and improve their shopping experiences [6
] because smartphones convey limited information with simple visual displays due to their small-sized screens [7
]. They are encouraged, for example, to design mobile pages simply so that users are not distracted, but navigate them intuitively [8
]. Similarly, designers are discouraged to add steps that consumers perform before reaching the final page. Indeed, recently popular mobile pages either replace click buttons with swipe buttons or even hide information.
However, we raise an important issue that UI designers ignore. That is, they pay attention to the usability of a mobile application [9
] while overlooking its critical role: providing information and facilitating transactions [10
]. More specifically, designers’ practice of decreasing consumers’ activities in order to improve usability suffers from two issues: First, decreasing activities does not guarantee higher usability. For instance, some studies have found no correlation between the number of clicks and navigation ease [11
]. Others have found that the number of clicks is not crucial for an optimal experience. Instead, clarity of the content of each click matters [12
]. These studies suggest that more than click numbers or page numbers should be considered to maximize usability. Second, more importantly, higher usability does not guarantee commercial success. Recent academic discussions about mobile commerce have limited their attention to usability, including ease of use, emotional valence, and perceived system value. Improving usability generally enhances users’ mood and their satisfaction, but there is no evidence that doing so increases consumers’ purchase-related behaviors [13
]. In sum, contemporary UI designers’ focus on ease of use may not always lead to commercially successful mobile applications.
In the present work, we shed light on the missing puzzle piece of mobile commerce by highlighting its commercial impact, which is ignored in prior academic discussions. More specifically, we focus on how UI in the mobile context changes consumers’ product attitudes, which are one of the commercial aspects of UI. We hypothesize that, in contrast to the misperception designers have, adding information about a product improves consumers’ attitudes toward the product. Our hypothesis is in line with the recent findings that consumers increase purchase intention and avoid risky decision-making when receiving more information, suggesting that addressing information-seeking behavior benefits consumers [14
]. Drawing from the literature that consumers seek information to reduce uncertainty [16
], we propose that adding information can increase consumers’ product attitudes when the product entails uncertainty. We go one step further to propose that consumers’ attitudes toward a product can even increase by not adding information, but activating a consumption goal [17
]. We argue that a consumption goal plays a significant role when UI designers seek to showcase products in the mobile context.
While we investigate consumers’ attitudes about a product, we pay particular attention to hybrid products (HPs). HPs consist of more than two normally disjointed and often categorically dissimilar products [18
]. As HPs have been spotlighted by globally leading manufacturers such as Samsung Electronics, marketers and designers are struggling to take adequate actions to increase their sales. Interestingly, however, relatively little attention has been given to HPs as compared to other new products such as really new products (RNPs), which consist of new technologies, require consumer learning, and induce behavior changes (e.g., Sony’s game machine, P&G’s clothing system, or LG’s Styler [19
]). Previously identified strategies for improving consumer attitudes about RNPs do not apply to HPs because HPs differ from RNPs in that HPs do not include new-to-market technology [21
We call for attention to the fact that we address a unique issue related to HPs compared to prior HP research. Previous work has highlighted which product should be added to an existing one to develop attractive HPs. Therefore, similarity or structural alignment between multiple products has been the research focus [18
]. In the present work, we study how to improve consumers’ attitudes toward HPs by assuming that the HPs have already been developed. Therefore, our research question is more aligned to studies about psychological approaches to new product adoption [22
The remaining sections of this research progress as follows: We review the literature on HPs, information seeking, and goals. We then develop a framework in which consumers’ attitudes toward HPs in the mobile shopping environment improve when additional information is provided and a consumption goal is activated. We hypothesize that when consumers have not activated a goal, additional information about products would improve their attitudes toward HPs. In contrast, consumers with an activated goal have a high level of product attitude even before additional information is provided; therefore, the effect shown in the without-goal condition is weakened. Two main experiments were conducted to test our hypotheses by manipulating the amount of information and goal activation. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of key findings and suggestions for future research.
4.1. Summary of Findings
Recent research shows the positive effects of designing a fast and straightforward user interface for an e-commerce website. Minimizing the number of pages and information load to speed up navigation have been chosen as design practices by UI designers. Especially in a mobile context, good usability is underscored even more as essential to providing a pleasant user experience. In this research, we investigated whether increasing the number of information pages influenced product evaluation. More specifically, we tested whether exposure to additional product information in mobile commerce increased or decreased product evaluation. We further explored the moderating effects of consumption goals on product evaluation when consumers faced unusual product bundles in mobile commerce. We showed that reaching additional information pages when consumers evaluated product bundles that combined seemingly unrelated products had positive implications for product evaluation. The information-seeking effect was weakened when consumers had a consumption goal.
Study 1 showed that consumers who clicked a button to navigate to a page with additional product information had more confidence in their understanding of a product than before they proceeded to the additional page. This result demonstrated the positive effect of information-seeking behavior on evaluating new product bundles, especially in lowering benefit uncertainty. Providing product information increased satisfaction with perceived product understanding even if the total number of pages increased, and it required pressing a button to reach the information page. Study 2 examined whether the effect of information seeking also influenced product evaluation. Consumers who perceived that they had more information evaluated the new product bundles more positively. This effect was moderated by consumption goals. Consumers who had a consumption goal evaluated new product bundles positively regardless of a modest information load and were not affected by additional information-seeking behavior.
We want to emphasize that our experiments were carefully designed and our participants were carefully recruited, suggesting that our findings have strong external validity. Our sample represented the target users of the new HPs in both studies, who are parents with children aged 0–3 for the bundle used in Study 1 and aged 4–6 for the bundle used in Study 2. Because product bundles presented in both Study 1 and Study 2 were a combination of home electronics products specialized for the care of children and each sample population was subdivided by their child’s age, our sample distribution had the advantage of increased personal relevance. This provides evidence for manufacturers’ future sales planning. This also applies to our survey method. We conducted both experiments on mobile devices to control the information load per page and swiping motion. Considering that consumer behavior differs according to whether it is on the web or mobile, UI design for mobile commerce similarly differs. Restricting survey access to mobile-only, therefore, matches the goal of measuring consumer behavior in mobile commerce.
4.2. Academic Contributions
The current work both provides an academic contribution and has empirical implications. The result contributes to the scholarly literature on new product adoption topics, information-seeking behavior, and the role of goals. First, even though the number of new products in the market is increasing, relatively few articles have documented the factors influencing new product adoption. Especially, no research has yet bridged new product adoption with information seeking and consumption goals. We suggest that information seeking and consumption goals together affect new product adoption.
Moreover, our results call for further examination of UX design research from a sales perspective. We showed that what has been thought to harm usability (e.g., increasing pages) increased product attitude when it came to evaluating new products. As existing research examining UX design in mobile commerce has limited its scope to usability, future UX research should expand its range to analyzing consumer decision-making such as purchase intention, willingness to pay, or product evaluation.
4.3. Managerial Implications
Two critical empirical implications can be drawn from our research. First, it provides fresh insights into marketers who aim to sell various types of new products including HPs in mobile commerce. We show that providing more information about products increases new product evaluation, hence lowering the new product adoption bar. Second, it has demonstrated the importance of consumption goals. Aligned with the first empirical implication, the consumption goal minimizes the difficulty of consumer persuasion in new product adoption. The goal plays a role in increasing product attitude, even if there is minimal information provided.
5. Limitations and Future Research
While we provide important insights for mobile commerce research, there are six limitations that we must acknowledge. First, our research is heavily based on a foundation of research on a general web environment. The activating goal in the web environment should navigate consumer behavior, including information-seeking behavior, as consumers with activated goals engage with favorable cognitive attitudes [69
]. However, our experiments were conducted under mobile conditions. Hence, we do not explain whether this cognitive influence occurs only in a mobile context or can be applied to other online commerce platforms. A research opportunity exists in mobile commerce, as two contradicting perspectives are available. On one hand, context matters. We do not expect that our findings hold in any non-mobile context because we tested consumers’ mobile behavior by conducting experiments employing a hypothetical mobile environment. Non-mobile contexts include brick-and-mortar stores, online websites, and any other alternative environments in which non-visual information can be processed. Indeed, there is evidence that people experience fatigue when they are overwhelmed by information on mobile pages but not on websites [70
]. On the other hand, the consumption goal is context-free. It is one of the fundamental psychological concepts and may influence consumer behavior regardless of context. For example, when a consumer aims to take care of her baby, her attitude toward a baby-care HP is likely to be higher than when she does not, regardless of whether her goal is activated by sales representatives, online websites, or radio commercials. This suggests that a consumption goal is a context-free, psychological variable which determines a consumer’s attitude. Unfortunately, we did not test whether context (mobile vs. non-mobile) moderated the impact of consumption goals in our manuscript. According to recent research about the “direct-touch” effect, people are more likely to choose an affect-laden alternative over a cognitively superior one when they use a touch interface (e.g., the iPad) compared to a non-touch interface (e.g., a desktop computer with a mouse). In the future, multiple mobile-context mediators should be rigorously measured to better understand the mechanisms involved in how information-seeking behavior influences consumers’ evaluations of HPs.
Second, we did not firmly establish whether lowering uncertainty was why information seeking led to more positive product evaluation in the mobile context. New product adoption is associated with uncertainty because some unfamiliar product elements carry the risk of having lower quality than expected [71
]. Our experiments are based on existing theories about the uncertainty associated with new products. However, we do not have an explanation regarding whether positive product evaluation occurs because information seeking lowers uncertainty. It remains unclear whether the effect would differ when consumers evaluated existing products. Future research requires further investigation of whether information seeking’s effect is restricted to products with uncertainty and does not occur when consumers evaluate familiar or existing products.
Third, although we focused on UX design in mobile commerce, enhancing product evaluation in mobile commerce can be approached by the theory of processing fluency. Prior research suggests that people’s attitudes toward a target become more favorable when they experience its fluent processing [72
]. Processing fluency has been shown to positively affect product evaluation [73
] and brand choice [74
]. Moreover, according to the goal fluency suggested by Labroo and Lee [72
], adding a focal goal dissimilar to product attributes decreases processing fluency, consequently lowering product evaluation. The possibility of conflicting assumptions to explain the result implies that the effect depends on the context, and further exploration can be conducted in the future.
Fourth, the commercial impact of UI needs to be further studied beyond attitude. We certainly believe that whether consumers add an HP to their shopping carts or even make a purchase needs to be investigated in the future. However, this question is out of scope for our current research because we are specifically interested in consumers’ perceived uncertainty and their attitude toward HPs. Note that ample research suggests that a good attitude does not necessarily result in a good outcome [75
]. Put simply, our dependent variables are psychological ones rather than behavioral ones.
Fifth, critically important practical variables should be further considered. One example is consumers’ control of conditions. In our experiments, we tested relationships not when participants had freedom to choose one out of two conditions but when they were assigned to one. Note that control is a powerful trigger that affects people’s behavior. There is empirical evidence showing that the presence of control has a significant effect on the regulation of emotion, cognition, and physiology [76
]. Indeed, simply expressing preferences through choices can reinforce the perception of individual control when deemed optimal for the desired outcome. When controlling the environment by choosing the behaviors that achieve desirable outcomes and avoid undesirable outcomes, consumers may be less influenced by information seeking or consumption goals.
Lastly, this topic can be further explored in the social commerce context. Social commerce has become a popular research topic due to its fast-growing market size [77
]. In social commerce, information created and shared by consumers significantly influences product attitudes and purchase intentions [78
]. Not only consumer-generated information, but also visual communications observed on social media invite further investigation for the dynamics of information type and user interaction [80
]. While we examined the effects of providing information per se, future researchers will discover profound implications by comparing the effects of different types of information including consumer generated information, official video advertisements, and information charts.