How Do Popular Rankings Affect Customer Search and Purchase on Mobile Apps: A Large-Scale Field Experiment

Posted: 23 Sep 2022

See all articles by Shuang Zheng

Shuang Zheng

Independent

Siliang Tong

Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University

Sihan Fang

Nanyang Business School, NTU

Anandasivam Gopal

Nanyang Business School

Xianneng Li

Independent

Date Written: September 13, 2022

Abstract

The search function is critical for the mobile shopping experience since customers bear substantial search costs with the constraint of screen size when filtering overloaded product information. This study investigates the impact of a search aid system with popular ranking topics on customer search behaviors, and subsequent viewings and purchases during mobile shopping. We collaborate with Meituan Company, the leading local life service mobile app in China, for a large-scale field experiment, in which a random group of 25,921 customers expose to the search aid system with 10 most popular topics searched by peers when they tab the search bar to initiate a search. Our empirical analyses demonstrate that the popular ranking search aid (PRSA) indeed drives the overall search activities, but the effect is divergent on different types of search behaviors. Specifically, PRSA stimulates customers to perform more nondirected searches but fewer directed searches. Such search behavioral change leads to more merchant viewings (e.g., clicks), purchases (e.g., orderings), click rate, and purchase rate on the search result page. Exploring heterogeneity in the effects around the characteristics of merchant type, we find that although PRSA drives customers to view and purchase from both new and repeated merchants, customers are more likely to choose popular merchants instead of niche merchants. Additional online study provides direct evidence showing that the PRSA could significantly reduce participants’ search cost (e.g., lower cognitive effort and shorter time when typing the search keyword), provide useful external information cues (e.g., less reliance on past search and purchase experience), and prime more nondirected searches (e.g., more likely to type nonspecific keywords in the search process). Our work offers theoretical contributions and managerial implications for mobile commerce operations.

Keywords: Mobile Commerce, Search Aid Systems, Customer Search, Directed and Nondirected Search, Field Experiment

Suggested Citation

Zheng, Shuang and Tong, Siliang and Fang, Sihan and Gopal, Anandasivam and Li, Xianneng, How Do Popular Rankings Affect Customer Search and Purchase on Mobile Apps: A Large-Scale Field Experiment (September 13, 2022). Nanyang Business School Research Paper No. Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4217145

Shuang Zheng

Independent

Siliang Tong (Contact Author)

Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University ( email )

Singapore, 639798
Singapore

Sihan Fang

Nanyang Business School, NTU

Anandasivam Gopal

Nanyang Business School ( email )

S3 B2-A28 Nanyang Avenue
Singapore, 639798
Singapore

Xianneng Li

Independent

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