Objectives: Diffusion of smartphones has normalised consumers’ use of mobile applications (apps). But how do app designs and contexts of use interact with differential consumer attributes to impact on their effectiveness, usability and value over time? For consumer food safety, answering these questions is of importance as numerous food choices increase challenges in safe food management (SFM). This research reports on results of a randomised field experiment with Australian consumers using an SFM mobile app developed by the researchers.
Method: The SFM app development employed insights from the Health Literacy Online Heuristics framework and the experiment involved evaluation of information and/or knowledge acquisition from the app versus from a paper-based version. The experiment spanned four weeks and involved eight participants (experimental group n=4; control group n=4).
Results: The results highlight differentials in cognitive burden between paper and the app; beneficial affordances from the app for refreshing consumer knowledge; and longer knowledge retention on safe food management from app use over-time.
Discussion: We identified two key impacts of the app on consumer knowledge acquisition and knowledge retention. First, the SFM app takes longer to achieve knowledge acquisition but results in longer knowledge retention than the control. Second, the SFM app induces some level of cognitive load in adoption however; the affordance of its reuse for quick but infrequent revisitations facilitates knowledge retention. Although the study is limited by the small sample size, it however highlights the need for a large scale and purely quantitative investigation that are generalisable to the Australian population.
Conclusion: It is anticipated that the insights gained from this study can be used to develop nationwide interventions for addressing consumer SFM knowledge gaps in the home; thus, moving a step closer towards addressing SFM behaviours of Australian consumers.