The role and impact of comparison websites on the consumer search process in the US and German airline markets
Holland CP, Jacobs JA, Klein S
The paper examines how consumers search for airline tickets based on a comparative analysis of the US and German markets. Data from comScore is analysed using an innovative application of set theory. ComScore is a leading commercial provider of business intelligence and consumer analytics based on its worldwide panel of two million online users. The search process is modelled using the concept of the consideration set based on primary search with the airline websites and secondly by the use of online travel agents and meta-search engines, which are termed comparison websites. Three generic search models are proposed: (1) primary search with airline websites only; (2) search of comparison websites only; (3) a combination of primary search and comparison websites. Each generic search model accounts for a significant proportion of overall users in both markets. The consideration sets are 2.58 in Germany and 2.74 in the United States. It is shown that the use of comparison websites significantly increases the propensity to conduct additional primary search based on analysis of all major airline pairs in both markets. The theoretical and managerial implications of the results are described and future research opportunities are outlined.