Title

The influence of task and information environment characteristics on consumer search behavior in an online setting

Date of Completion

January 2006

Keywords

Business Administration, Marketing|Mass Communications

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

The uniqueness of the online shopping environment and the rapid growth of the online retail sales make it important to understand how consumers search for information in an online setting. This dissertation takes both the adaptive decision making approach and the cost-benefit approach to examine how the task and information environment characteristics of an online shopping environment influence consumers' selective information processing strategies, amount of information search, experienced cognitive effort, affect, and choice. I report the results of two experiments that investigate these research questions. ^ In Study 1, I examine the influence of attribute type (digital vs. non-digital), attribute correlation (positive vs. negative), and alternative organization (random vs. sorted) on selective information processing, as well as the relationships among selective information processing, the amount of information search, experienced cognitive effort, and affect. The results indicate that (1) consumers tend to selectively process attributes when there are more non-digital (vs. digital) attributes and attributes are positively correlated and (2) selectively process alternatives when alternatives are sorted (vs. random) and attributes are positively correlated. Further, the results show that the amount of information search and experienced cognitive effort mediate the relationships between selective information processing and affect (positive and negative). ^ In Study 2, I investigate the influence of attribute perceptual salience (salient vs. non-salient) and alternative organization (random vs. sorted by the non-salient attribute) on consumers' selective information processing of alternatives and choices. The results indicate that consumers tend to examine and choose alternatives with better values on the perceptually salient attribute when alternatives are listed in random order. However, sorting alternatives by the perceptually non-salient attribute attenuates such an effect. Further, the results show that consumers' selective information processing of alternatives mediates the interaction effect between attribute perceptual salience and alternative organization on consumer choice. ^