The increase in the variety of websites, ranging from information-intensive portal, through social media, to shopping website, has afforded consumers unprecedented opportunity to make informed purchase decisions. Anecdotal evidence indicates that consumers do spend considerable amount of effort visiting various online outlets, such as the social media websites, prior to committing to a purchase. This could suggest that online consumers in general are conscious-buyers who have a tendency to engage in reasonably wide amount of product research beyond the shopping websites. Building on the selective exposure theory, this research argues that online consumers are selective and focus in their product research endeavor; specifically, these consumers may have a tendency to biased process the exposed informational alternatives to gratify their needs for purchase through shopping websites. To validate this proposition, we collaborated with a Chinese Internet-based research agency to perform a pluralistic investigation, which involves a non-obtrusive tracking of 200 Chinese consumers’ online activity and a series of post-investigation interviews.

In terms of tracking of the consumers’ activities, our novel analyzing technique, sequence analysis, can be used to categorize the distinctive clusters of cross-website navigations. In each distinctive cluster, consumers engaging in product information retrieving activities are more likely to commit to a purchase within a visit even after taking into consideration the previous visits’ activities. Based on previous work, we argue that visits to different types of information media influence the online purchase commitment variously. The subsequent interview designs with a subset of consumers will be conducted to reveal that consumers have an inclination to gratify the reasons for purchase by focusing on visiting shopping websites; while other websites serve as good avenues to gratify reasons for non-purchase in the future.