Ever since the first iPhone arrived 15 years ago, consumer purchasing habits have slowly but surely shifted towards mobile devices. According to a survey of 3,250 American consumers from Pymnts.com, a website dedicated to analyzing the role of payments in new technologies, most purchases of travel services (51.4%) were made on a mobile device in February 2022.

The trend is even stronger among younger buyers. About 48% of millennials aged 25-40 prefer to use their mobile phones to shop online, compared with just 34% of all buyers worldwide, according to a 2021 survey of 13,000 buyers from Klarna, a payment company online.

So it seems that shopping on the go on your old-fashioned desktop computer will eventually go the way of the horse and buggy. Indeed, some travel services, such as Hopper’s travel search engine, only offer in-app purchases for certain bookings, leaving desktop users high.

However, buying a flight over the phone is more convenient and can be more expensive. This is why.

Watch out for the “drop price”

The increase in mobile shopping over the past decade has coincided with a fundamental shift in the way travel brands make money. Additional fees, including baggage fees and seat selection on flights, and cleaning and resort fees with lodging, have become more common and more expensive. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in 2021 alone, U.S. airlines collected $ 5.3 billion in baggage fees.

However, a study published in 2021 in the journal Marketing Science found that buyers tend to make suboptimal decisions within the so-called drip pricing Situations, that is, where hidden fees are imposed throughout the checkout process. Buyers tend to compare starting prices from competitors which are low rather than higher ending prices.


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“When companies use a drip pricing strategy, the starting price is almost always lower than the total price of the competition,” said Shelle Santana, an associate professor of marketing at Bentley University and one of the study authors, in an email interview. “But as they start adding amenities like checked baggage, seating options, etc., the price difference between companies narrows and sometimes reverses.”

Anyone who has purchased airline tickets from low-cost airlines such as Spirit or Frontier knows exactly how this drip price works. However, what surprised Santana and her colleagues was the reluctance of customers to compare alternatives, even after the end price increased.

“Consumers see the high search costs associated with restarting the decision-making process and think they will save less money than they actually are,” said Santana.

Basically, buyers tend to run to the final checkout screen and are reluctant to accept any added fees. They assume that starting over and finding another option will be too cumbersome, even if it would save them money.

Too many cards, needed applications

Shopping on mobile devices is quick and easy with simple purchases like ordering cat food or paying the bill. However, shopping on the go is not easy and usually requires you to switch between several tabs and apps to find the best deal.

Consider the common decision whether to buy a flight with cash or award miles. This includes several steps. First you need to search for rewards availability on the airline app or website, possibly after going to your personal calendar to check the dates. You then search a third-party flight service tool like Google Flights for estimated cash charges before determining your mileage versus dollars. Once you’ve selected your best option, you’ll need to go through the entire checkout process, for both Cash Options and Award Tickets, to determine the true final price.

Perhaps some of the Zer generation with the fingers of the fleet will cope with this task on a mobile device. But it’s too daunting for many.


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Indeed, a 2018 study published in the Journal of Marketing watched nearly a million sessions on the shopping site and found that shoppers who switched from phone to PC traded with a higher conversion rate. Interestingly, this higher conversion rate effect was even more pronounced for higher-priced or risky products.

So, even if you like to scroll through flights on your phone or feel overwhelmed by mobile options, follow the advice of experts who prefer to book trips – which can be both expensive and risky – using your computer.

“I almost always shop on the go on my computer,” said Santana. “I like to open multiple tabs at once and switch between them to make sure I understand the price differences and driving factors in different companies.”

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