Dealing with uncertainties in complex online searching scenarios

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School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Information and Service Management (ISM)
RELEVANCE AND MOTIVATION With the development of information technology, the Internet has become one of the primary sources of information in recent decades. Numerous studies have researched about consumer search behavior in the traditional brick-and-mortar market and in the digital environment, however, not so many researches have studied how consumers search behavior online with the presence of uncertainty in a complex decision-making process. OBJECTIVE The objective of this thesis is to obtain a general understanding of consumer information search behavior online with great uncertainties in a complex decision-making process. Specifically, the thesis aims to understand firstly the search strategies consumers use during their online search process when facing different uncertainties and making purchases with significant consequences. Secondly, when do consumers switch between search strategies during their online search process, when facing different uncertainties and making purchases with significant consequences. METHOD The research method utilized in this thesis is a combination of case study approach with the think-aloud method. Specifically, two different tasks are designed for conducting think-aloud experiments. Data is collected through think-aloud protocols and transcribed for analysis. RESULTS The result showed that all three search types i.e., sequential search, simultaneous search, and iterative search have occurred during individuals’ searching process. It was found that when individuals wish to look for product information in more detail, such as learning about tax regulations on cars or where to book train tickets, sequential search behaviors are favored more than other search behaviors. In the second think-aloud experiment, we observed that, while knowledge uncertainty was still present, and while the participant was searching for flights and comparing different alternatives for flight tickets, sequential searching behavior changed to iterative searching behavior.
Thesis advisor
Liu, Yong
Saarinen, Timo
Uncertainty, Information, Search, Think-Aloud
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