Online Consumer Search Behaviour: An International, Cross-Sector Analysis

Jacobs, J. A., Holland, C. P., Klein, S.

The Internet has revolutionised access to information and transformed consumer search and buying behaviour. (Hu et al. 2014, Dinner et al. 2014). The consideration set is an important construct in marketing to measure search. Contrary to economic theory (Stigler, 1961), existing Internet studies report relatively small online consideration sets between 2 and 3 (Johnson et al. 2004, Meyer & Stobbe 2010, Holland & Mandry 2013). Our research questions are: 1) Why are online consideration sets relatively small? 2) How do search strategies evolve? 3) What are the differences in search behaviour for constellations of consumers defined by: a) Product and market sectors b) Demographic variables, c) Differences in media use, i.e. computer versus mobile devices, d) Nationality and culture.
Methods & Data: Clickstream Analysis, Online Panel Data.Clickstream analysis provides granular data on a very large scale, and can therefore be used to develop research experiments and insights into actual consumer behaviour compared with surveys, which rely on recalled behaviour and statements of future intent. International panel data from ComScore is used to investigate differences in consumer behaviour across six market sectors: banking, insurance, grocery, telecommunications, automotive and airline.
Results: International results, small online consideration setsInitial results from the US, UK and German markets show that the online consideration sets are relatively small. This is contrary to economic and marketing theory, which predicted more extensive search patterns because of lower search costs. Online search also appears to be more narrow than similar pre-Internet studies.
Added Value: Empirical contribution, theory development, commercial data setsThe research builds on the few previous empirical uses of online panel data, and develops an ambitious international, cross-sector empirical database. Most research in this area, including recent survey based research, is typically a snapshot of activity in a single sector within one country, using sample sizes of between 30 and a few hundred. This research is based on longitudinal data samples with sample sizes of millions of users.

Consumer Search Behaviour

Publication type
Abstract / Poster

Peer reviewed

Publication status


General Online Research (GOR 2015)

Köln, Germany