ERIM Research Clinic: Behavioral Analysis of Consumer Product Search
This paper introduces a behavioral model of consumer product search. The model extends a baseline normative model of sequential search by incorporating non-normative influences that are local in the sense that they reflect consumers' undue sensitivity to recently encountered alternatives. We propose two types of such local behavioral influences.
The first of these influences is that consumers respond excessively to the attractiveness of the currently inspected product, at the expense of all others (“focalism”). The second proposed behavioral influence is that consumers overreact to the difference in attractiveness between the current product and the one encountered just prior to it (“local contrast”). Evidence from two experiments, which combine to guarantee both high internal and high external validity, provides support for the proposed behavioral influences. Our findings demonstrate that consumers'
product comparison and stopping decisions in sequential product search are jointly governed by normative principles and by the proposed local behavioral influences.