How Do Popular Rankings Affect Customer Search and Purchase on Mobile Apps: A Large-Scale Field Experiment
Posted: 23 Sep 2022
Date Written: September 13, 2022
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
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