Search Gaps

73 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2021 Last revised: 2 Aug 2021

See all articles by Raluca Ursu

Raluca Ursu

New York University - Stern School of Business

Qianyun Poppy Zhang

New York University (NYU) - New York University (NYU), Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Marketing, Students

Elisabeth Honka

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management

Date Written: July 31, 2021

Abstract

In the canonical sequential search model, consumers inspect options consecutively until they decide to stop searching, a decision which occurs only once before consumers determine whether and what to purchase. However, using data on consumers’ online browsing histories, we document that consumers frequently take breaks during their search (“search gaps”), that is, they obtain information on a number of options, pause, and later resume their search. Further, we provide model-free evidence that consumers take breaks from searching due to fatigue. To describe search processes that include gaps due to fatigue, we extend the Weitzman (1979) framework and develop a sequential search model that rationalizes search gaps by allowing consumers to additionally decide when to search an option: now or after a break. Fatigue enters the model through increasing search costs: the more a consumer searches, the higher her search costs per option; taking a break reduces these costs to a baseline and enables the consumer to resume her search at a later time. We estimate the proposed model using our data and quantify the effect of fatigue on consumer search and purchase decisions. We find the effect of fatigue to be larger than that of baseline search costs. Lastly, we illustrate the impact of search gaps and consumer fatigue on market outcomes via counterfactuals.

Keywords: Sequential Search, Search Fatigue, Search Delay, Online Browsing, Apparel Industry

JEL Classification: D83, L81, M31

Suggested Citation

Ursu, Raluca and Zhang, Qianyun Poppy and Honka, Elisabeth, Search Gaps (July 31, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3757724 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3757724

Raluca Ursu (Contact Author)

New York University - Stern School of Business ( email )

Tisch Hall
40 W 4 St.
New York, NY NA 10012
United States

Qianyun Poppy Zhang

New York University (NYU) - New York University (NYU), Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Marketing, Students ( email )

Henry Kaufman Ctr
44 W 4 St.
New York, NY
United States

Elisabeth Honka

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States

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