Consumers spent nearly $8 billion on Cyber Monday in 2018. Consumers spent nearly $8 billion on Cyber Monday in 2018. Consumers spent nearly $8 billion on Cyber Monday in 2018. (Photo: Vectorfusionart / Shutterstock)

This one tip will help you shop smarter this holiday season

About to make a Black Friday or Cyber Monday purchase? Scientists have discovered the best way to make better shopping choices.

If you're looking to buy a new big-screen TV this Black Friday, put down your smartphone. You'll choose a much better TV if you do the purchasing on a desktop computer or laptop instead.

That's the findings of a new study from Ben-Gurion University in Israel. "The issue is not actually screen size," explained Professor Lior Fink, who researches consumer behavior. "It is actually the fact that sites adjusted for mobile viewing reduce the information offered on the results page and require more digging around in the site for information. Sites adjusted for PC viewing give more information right up front."

These findings are aligned with what many "user experience" experts have long said: Consume on small devices, and create on bigger ones. Tablets and smartphones are great for consuming information, and desktops or laptops are better when you want to be productive. Want to scroll through your Instagram feed? Use your phone. Want to compose an email? It'll be easier on a computer.

To test their theory, Dr. Fink and his master’s student, Daniele Papismedov, conducted two experiments in their laboratory in southern Israel. Test participants were asked to choose a fictitious hotel room among 11 room options. They viewed the information either on a desktop computer or on a mobile device. While all the information was available in both displays, it was more readily available on the PC display. Indeed, eight of the hotel room's features could be viewed on the big display, while only three were seen on a smartphone. Making matters worse, fine print is even finer on a tiny screen.

“Most e-commerce providers use ‘responsive web design’ to adapt the presentation of information to the device used,” Fink explained. “While mobile-friendly presentation improves visibility, it reduces the amount of information and causes consumers to make decisions that are less consistent with their preferences.” Their findings will be presented next month at the International Conference on Information Systems, the top academic conference in the field.

According to RescueTime, an app which tracks mobile phone usage, most people spend more than three hours per day on their phone. Not surprisingly, advertisers and retailers try to capitalize on that dedicated screen time by attempting to make purchasing items on your mobile device as seamless as possible. But sometimes when it's too seamless, you're missing out on important information. (Some shady sellers, like those that sell knockoff items as third-party sellers on Amazon, are likely counting on this discrepancy.)

Consumers spent nearly $8 billion on Cyber Monday in 2018, making it the largest online shopping day ever in the United States. That was a 19.3% increase from the previous year, and more than the $6.22 billion that Americans spent online last year on Black Friday.

So whether it's Black Friday or Cyber Monday or just a typical Tuesday, place your phone down and head to your desk instead. Your wallet will thank you.

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This one tip will help you shop smarter this holiday season
About to make a Black Friday or Cyber Monday purchase? Scientists have discovered the best way to make better shopping choices.