Searching for Experience on the Web: An Empirical Examination of Consumer Behavior for Search and Experience Goods
Journal of Marketing, Vol. 73, pp. 55-69, March 2009
Posted: 5 Nov 2007 Last revised: 27 Oct 2015
By lowering the costs of gathering and sharing information, and offering new ways to learn about products prior to purchase, the Internet reduces traditional distinctions between search and experience goods. At the same time, differences in the type of information sought can change the process through which consumers gather information and make decisions online for search and experience goods. A preliminary experiment shows that, although there are significant differences in consumers' perceived ability to evaluate product quality prior to purchase between search and experience goods in traditional retail environments, these differences are blurred in online environments. An analysis of consumers' online behavior shows that consumers spend similar amount of time online gathering information for search and experience goods, but there are important differences in the browsing and purchase behavior for these two different types of goods. In particular, experience goods involve greater depth (time per page) and lower breadth (total number of pages) of search than search goods. In addition, free-riding (purchasing from a retailer other than the primary source of product information) is less severe for experience than for search goods. Finally, the presence of product reviews from other consumers, and multimedia that allows consumers to experience products before purchase, have a greater effect on search and purchase behavior for experience than for search goods.
Keywords: Information search, browsing behavior, experience goods, multi-media, Internet
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation