Lower searching cost and access to large amounts of information on the Internet are making a consumer’s search more iterative. Through a synthesis of literature from consumer behaviour and information science, we propose a process model of online consumer search in which a consumer may move forward in the process towards a final product selection, but also is likely to backtrack to an earlier stage to revise their search. Our process model steps through a consumer’s need, search criteria, alternatives, evaluation, and final selection, including an option of iteration within the evaluation stage. Future research will fully investigate the entire process model, but in this paper we focus on the evaluation stage and the resulting search iteration. In the online context, as a consumer evaluates alternative products, the consumer is also engaged in a learning process where the consumer may identify the need to update the functional product attributes and/or the hedonic product attributes of the search criteria or alternatives, which leads to a new iteration of the search process. The product consumption goals of a consumer (i.e., prevention, promotion) are theorized to also influence the search process leading to iteration. Hypotheses and future research opportunities are outlined.
Zhang, Chen; Öörni, Anssi; Kettinger, William; and Kaleta, Jeffrey, "A FORK IN THE ROAD: A CONCEPTUAL MODEL OF ONLINE CONSUMER ITERATIVE SEARCH" (2011). ECIS 2011 Proceedings. 216.