IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Testing Models of Consumer Search Using Data on Web Browsing and Purchasing Behavior


  • Babur De Los Santos
  • Ali Hortacsu
  • Matthijs R. Wildenbeest


Using a large dataset on web browsing and purchasing behavior we test to what extent consumers are searching in accordance to various search models. We find that the benchmark model of sequential search with a known price distribution can be rejected based on recall patterns found in the data as well as the absence of dependence of search decisions on prices. Our findings suggest fixed sample size search provides a more accurate description of search behavior. We then utilize the fixed sample size search model to estimate demand elasticities of online bookstores in an environment where store preferences are heterogeneous. (JEL D12, D83, L81)

Suggested Citation

  • Babur De Los Santos & Ali Hortacsu & Matthijs R. Wildenbeest, 2012. "Testing Models of Consumer Search Using Data on Web Browsing and Purchasing Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(6), pages 2955-2980, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:102:y:2012:i:6:p:2955-80

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to AEA members and institutional subscribers.

    File URL:
    File Function: dataset accompanying article
    Download Restriction: no

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rothschild, Michael, 1974. "Searching for the Lowest Price When the Distribution of Prices Is Unknown," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(4), pages 689-711, July/Aug..
    2. Weitzman, Martin L, 1979. "Optimal Search for the Best Alternative," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(3), pages 641-654, May.
    3. Han Hong & Matthew Shum, 2006. "Using price distributions to estimate search costs," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 37(2), pages 257-275, June.
    4. R. Manning & P. B. Morgan, 1982. "Search and Consumer Theory," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 49(2), pages 203-216.
    5. Babur De los Santos, 2008. "Consumer Search on the Internet," Working Papers 08-15, NET Institute, revised Sep 2008.
    6. Schotter, Andrew & Braunstein, Yale M, 1981. "Economic Search: An Experimental Study," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 19(1), pages 1-25, January.
    7. Austan Goolsbee & Judith Chevalier, 2002. "Measuring Prices and Price Competition Online: Amazon and Barnes and Noble," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm290, Yale School of Management, revised 12 Sep 2008.
    8. Mortensen, Dale T, 1970. "Job Search, the Duration of Unemployment, and the Phillips Curve," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(5), pages 847-862, December.
    9. Chen, Xiaohong & Hong, Han & Shum, Matthew, 2007. "Nonparametric likelihood ratio model selection tests between parametric likelihood and moment condition models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 141(1), pages 109-140, November.
    10. Sonnemans, Joep, 1998. "Strategies of search," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 309-332, April.
    11. Rami Zwick & Amnon Rapoport & Alison King Chung Lo & A. V. Muthukrishnan, 2003. "Consumer Sequential Search: Not Enough or Too Much?," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 22(4), pages 503-519, October.
    12. J. J. McCall, 1970. "Economics of Information and Job Search," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(1), pages 113-126.
    13. repec:rje:randje:v:37:y:2006:2:p:257-275 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Harrison, Glenn W & Morgan, Peter, 1990. "Search Intensity in Experiments," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(401), pages 478-486, June.
    15. Rosenfield, Donald B. & Shapiro, Roy D., 1981. "Optimal adaptive price search," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 1-20, August.
    16. Morgan, Peter & Manning, Richard, 1985. "Optimal Search," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(4), pages 923-944, July.
    17. Kogut, Carl A., 1990. "Consumer search behavior and sunk costs," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 381-392, December.
    18. Gabriel Talmain & Chien-Fu Chou, 1990. "Non-Parametric Search," Discussion Papers 92-01, University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Economics.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D43 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Oligopoly and Other Forms of Market Imperfection
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets


    This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:
    1. Testing Models of Consumer Search Using Data on Web Browsing and Purchasing Behavior (AER 2012) in ReplicationWiki


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:102:y:2012:i:6:p:2955-80. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jane Voros) or (Michael P. Albert). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.