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Consumer Search on the Internet

  • Babur de los Santos

    (Department of Business Economics and Public Policy, Indiana University Kelley School of Business)

This paper uses consumer search data to explain search frictions in online markets, within the context of an equilibrium search model. I use a novel dataset of consumer online browsing and purchasing behavior, which tracks all consumer search prior to each transaction. Using observed search intensities from the online book industry, I estimate search cost distributions that allow for asymmetric consumer sampling. Research on consumer search often assumes a symmetric sampling rule for analytical convenience despite its lack of realism. Search behavior in the online book industry is quite limited: in only 25 percen of the transactions did consumers visit more than one bookstore's website. The industry is characterized by a strong consumer preference for certain retailers. Accounting for unequal consumer sampling halves the search cost estimates from 1.8 to 0.9 dollars per search in the online book industry. Analysis of time spent online suggests substitution between the time consumers spend searching and the relative opportunity cost of their time. Retired people, those with lower education levels, and minorities (with the exception of Hispanics) spent significantly more time searching for a book online. There is a negative relationship between income levels and time spent searching.

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File URL: http://kelley.iu.edu/riharbau/RePEc/iuk/wpaper/bepp2008-06-delossantos.pdf
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Paper provided by Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy in its series Working Papers with number 2008-06.

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Date of creation: Sep 2008
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Handle: RePEc:iuk:wpaper:2008-06
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  1. Jeffrey R. Brown & Austan Goolsbee, 2002. "Does the Internet Make Markets More Competitive? Evidence from the Life Insurance Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(3), pages 481-507, June.
  2. Michael R. Baye & John Morgan, 2005. "Brand and Price Advertising in Online Markets," Working Papers 2005-08, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
  3. Clay, Karen, et al, 2002. "Retail Strategies on the Web: Price and Non-price Competition in the Online Book Industry," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(3), pages 351-67, September.
  4. Karen Clay & Ramayya Krishnan & Eric Wolff, 2001. "Prices and Price Dispersion on the Web: Evidence from the Online Book Industry," NBER Chapters, in: E-commerce, pages 521-539 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Kathy Baylis & Jeffrey Perloff, 2002. "Price Dispersion on the Internet: Good Firms and Bad Firms," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer, vol. 21(3), pages 305-324, November.
  6. repec:dgr:uvatin:20060019 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Maarten C. W. Janssen & José Luis Moraga-González, 2004. "Strategic Pricing, Consumer Search and the Number of Firms," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 71(4), pages 1089-1118, October.
  8. MacMinn, Richard D, 1980. "Search and Market Equilibrium," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(2), pages 308-27, April.
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