IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Impacts of Shopbots on Online Consumer Search



Online price comparison agents (shopbots) allow consumers to instantaneously receive price and other information from many online retailers. Online consumer clickstream data from ComScore Inc.demonstrate that consumers are increasingly using shopbots to conduct search. This phenomenon raises such questions as "how do shopbots change consumers’ search behavior?" and "do they reduce consumers’ online search?" Conventional wisdom suggests that consumers are expected to search less because shopbots have displayed prices and other relative information from retailers on the search result page(s). Surprisingly, this study demonstrates the opposite result. That is, consumers are actually visiting more online retailer web sites after using shopbots. This finding suggests that after searching for an item through a shopbot and receiving the price information, consumers will continue to look for detailed information about the online retailers by visiting their web sites. The empirical finding is explained by an analytical model, which shows that on the one hand shopbots reduce the marginal benefit of searching additional online stores; on the other hand they reduce the cost of search. Therefore whether shopbots reduce consumer search depends on the cost of reducing per unit of risk, which is decided by a number of factors, such as marginal search costs, price dispersion and quality differentiation among stores, price and quality correlation, and consumers’ relative preference for service quality.

Suggested Citation

  • Jie Jennifer Zhang & Bing Jing, 2007. "The Impacts of Shopbots on Online Consumer Search," Working Papers 07-34, NET Institute, revised Sep 2007.
  • Handle: RePEc:net:wpaper:0734

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Clay, Karen & Krishnan, Ramayya & Wolff, Eric, 2001. "Prices and Price Dispersion on the Web: Evidence from the Online Book Industry," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(4), pages 521-539, December.
    2. Yuxin Chen & K. Sudhir, 2004. "When Shopbots Meet Emails: Implications for Price Competition on the Internet," Quantitative Marketing and Economics (QME), Springer, vol. 2(3), pages 233-255, September.
    3. Michael D. Smith & Erik Brynjolfsson, 2001. "Consumer Decision-making at an Internet Shopbot: Brand Still Matters," NBER Chapters,in: E-commerce, pages 541-558 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Erik Brynjolfsson & Michael D. Smith, 2000. "Frictionless Commerce? A Comparison of Internet and Conventional Retailers," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 46(4), pages 563-585, April.
    5. 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.
    6. Weitzman, Martin L, 1979. "Optimal Search for the Best Alternative," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(3), pages 641-654, May.
    7. Moorthy, Sridhar & Ratchford, Brian T & Talukdar, Debabrata, 1997. " Consumer Information Search Revisited: Theory and Empirical Analysis," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 23(4), pages 263-277, March.
    8. repec:rje:randje:v:37:y:2006:2:p:257-275 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. 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.
    10. Urbany, Joel E & Dickson, Peter R & Wilkie, William L, 1989. " Buyer Uncertainty and Information Search," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(2), pages 208-215, September.
    11. Diehl, Kristin & Kornish, Laura J & Lynch, John G, Jr, 2003. " Smart Agents: When Lower Search Costs for Quality Information Increase Price Sensitivity," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 30(1), pages 56-71, June.
    12. Stahl, Dale O, II, 1989. "Oligopolistic Pricing with Sequential Consumer Search," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(4), pages 700-712, September.
    13. George J. Stigler, 1961. "The Economics of Information," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 69, pages 213-213.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Sequential Search; Online Behavior; Shopbots; Internet Retailing; Clickstream Data; Service Quality;

    JEL classification:

    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality
    • C12 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Hypothesis Testing: General
    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    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:net:wpaper:0734. 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: (Nicholas Economides). 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.