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On the Depth and Dynamics of Online Search Behavior

Management Science, Vol. 50, No. 3, pp. 299-308

30 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2009  

Eric J. Johnson

Columbia Business School - Marketing

Wendy W. Moe

University of Maryland - Robert H. Smith School of Business

Peter Fader

University of Pennsylvania - Marketing Department

Steven Bellman

Murdoch University

Gerald Lohse

Accenture Corporation

Date Written: March 2004

Abstract

This paper examines search across competing e-commerce sites. By analyzing panel data from over 10,000 Internet households and three commodity-like products (books, compact discs (CDs), and air travel services), we show that the amount of online search is actually quite limited. On average, households visit only 1.2 book sites, 1.3 CD sites, and 1.8 travel sites during a typical active month in each category. Using probabilistic models, we characterize search behavior at the individual level in terms of (1) depth of search, (2)dynamics of search, and (3) activity of search. We model an individual's tendency to search as a logarithmic process, finding that shoppers search across very few sites in a given shopping month. We extend the logarithmic model of search to allow for time-varying dynamics that may cause the consumer to evolve and, perhaps, learn to search over time. We find that for two of the three product categories studied, search propensity does not change from month to month. However, in the third product category we find mild evidence of time-varying dynamics, where search decreases over time from already low levels. Finally, we model the level of a household's shopping activity and integrate it into our model of search. The results suggest that more-active online shoppers tend also to search across more sites. This consumer characteristic largely drives the dynamics of search that can easily be mistaken as increases from experience at the individual level.

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Eric J. and Moe, Wendy W. and Fader, Peter and Bellman, Steven and Lohse, Gerald, On the Depth and Dynamics of Online Search Behavior (March 2004). Management Science, Vol. 50, No. 3, pp. 299-308. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1323505

Eric J. Johnson (Contact Author)

Columbia Business School - Marketing ( email )

New York, NY 10027
United States

Wendy W. Moe

University of Maryland - Robert H. Smith School of Business ( email )

College Park, MD 20742-1815
United States

Peter Fader

University of Pennsylvania - Marketing Department ( email )

700 Jon M. Huntsman Hall
3730 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6340
United States

Steven Bellman

Murdoch University ( email )

South Street
Murdoch 6150, Western Australia
Australia

Gerald Lohse

Accenture Corporation ( email )

141 Walker Street
Chicago, IL 60601
United States

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