The Impact of Device Used in Digital Paths on Deadline-Driven Purchase Decisions

Meheli Basu and J. Jeffrey Inman, University of Pittsburgh, and Kirk Wakefield, Baylor University, 2019, 19-124-08

Companies design applications and web pages optimized for mobile, but they know little about how consumers behave differently on mobile versus desktops. Marketers dedicate resources to minimize search effort on mobile devices and promote mobile channels with high acquisition costs per install, registration and in-app purchases. The question: Is it worth it to push traffic to mobile?

Meheli Basu, Jeff Inman, and Kirk Wakefield investigate conversion rates on mobile versus desktop for deadline-driven purchases (event tickets) to see how the consumer’s choice of device in the digital path to purchase influences conversion rates. Their study integrates consumer search behavior across device types to quantify the drivers of purchases. They focus on online browsing versus buying and how the choice of device type influences path completion. They map the shopper path from start to finish (buy or abandon) using three years of StubHub browsing and transaction data.


Applying a conditional expectations correction model, they find the best case scenario for conversion is a search and purchase completely on PC. Next is mobile only. Device switching spells trouble for conversion rates, but corresponds with higher total sales per transaction.

Contrary to prior work, they find purchase rates are higher for PC-to-mobile device switching than for the reverse. Experimentally they demonstrate that search inconvenience (cost) associated with mobile use outweighs purchase risk concerns to impede the customer journey toward purchase.

Put into Practice

Web retailers can distinguish between marketing strategies targeted at consumers on PC versus  mobile in real time. Online sellers can target users based on browsing behavior, serving different messages and offers to different users based on dwell time, pages searched, cursor movement and other meta data.

Sellers like StubHub, Hotwire, Priceline, airlines, hotels and other booking agencies for travel or leisure would do well to prompt or promote users whose first search is on PC or mobile to remain online to complete the purchase. These sellers can track user web-traffic patterns to identify device-switchers and then incentivize accordingly to complete the purchase with push notices or retargeting ads. Sellers can also intervene in the search or purchase stage to reduce (perceived) inconvenience on mobile.

Mobile purchases are less likely to occur far in advance of the event date, indicating that mobile usage is prone to be last minute impulse purchases. Push notices or email campaigns targeting these same late buyers may motivate early searches, resulting in higher conversion rates.

Meheli Basu is a Ph.D. candidate, Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh. J. Jeffrey Inman is the Albert Wesley Frey Professor of Marketing and Associate Dean of Research and Faculty at the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh. Kirk L. Wakefield is the Edwin W. Streetman Professor of Retail Marketing, Hankamer School of Business, Baylor University. 


  • Corporate: FREE
  • Academic: FREE
  • Subscribers: FREE
  • Public: $18.00



Employees of MSI Member Companies enjoy the benefits of complete online access to content, member conferences and networking with the MSI community.



Qualified academics benefit from a relationship with MSI through access to, conferences and research opportunities.



The public is invited to enjoy partial access to content, a free e-newsletter, selected reports and more.




Learn more about becoming a member of the institute

Read More

Stay Informed

The MSI Mailing List

Subscribe to our email list to stay informed about upcoming events, news, etc.

Social Media