An Empirical Analysis of Internet Search Engine Choice
34 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2003
Date Written: September 2001
We investigate consumers' choice behavior for Internet search engines. Within this broad agenda, we focus on two interrelated issues. First, we will document whether consumers develop loyalty to a particular search engine. If loyalty does indeed develop, we seek to understand what is the importance of this loyalty in the search engine choice. We also explore how the level of interaction with the engine enhances or detracts from customer loyalty. Second, we seek to determine how search engine performance affects the user choice behavior. To accomplish our research objective, we first develop a conceptual model of search engine choice based on the literature in human-computer interaction and cognitive psychology. Next, we use a multinomial logit model to study 6,321 distinct search engine choices for six engines over a period of one year. Our findings show that user dissatisfaction with the results negatively affects the user choice both immediately as well as in the future. We also show that the impact of loyalty is small when users use engines primarily for search purposes but quite large when they use personalized features. Finally, we also test whether user choice is affected by the presence of banner advertisements on the Web. The results of this research provide insight into consumer behavior in the marketplace for Internet search engines and offer guidance to managers of these companies in developing sustainable competitive advantage through better product design.
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