Pre-Purchase Online Information Seeking: Search Versus Browse


Brian Detlor
Susan Sproule
Chris Gupta


Recognizing the need to support both goal-directed and experiential behaviour in online shopping environments as a means of facilitating flow, this paper reports results from an exploratory study that investigates consumer preferences for Web-based product information display across browsing and searching tasks. Thirty-one participants performed two online shopping tasks (one searching and one browsing in nature) on predetermined e-tailing sites and were asked to evaluate the display of product information on these sites in helping them carry out these tasks. Results suggest three things: 1) information such as pricing, product description, retailer selection, retailer advice, and a good interface design are required in both tasks; 2) searching requires more detailed product information; and 3) browsing places greater emphasis on information about the retailer. Based on these findings, a theoretical framework for Web based product information display is presented. With respect to the design of Web retailing sites, the study’s results imply the need to focus not only on goal-directed search, but also on non-directed browsing tasks as well. It is argued that adapting the design of e-tailing sites to the unique information display requirements of search and browse tasks could help promote more compelling online shopping experiences for consumers.

Published Date: 

May, 2003

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