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Consumer information search is an integral part of the problem-solving process that has been one of the major paradigms of the consumer behavior literature (e.g., Bettman, 1979; Engel, Kollat and Blackwell, 1968; Howard and Sheth, 1969; Nicosia, 1966). Despite recent academic interest in other consumption processes, for example such as impulse purchases (e.g., Rook, 1987) and experiential consumption (e.g., Holbrook and Hirschman, 1982; Johnson, 2000), deliberative information search and information consideration is still widely acknowledged to take place especially for high involvement (Bloch and Bruce, 1984; Laurent and Kapferer, 1985; Mittal, 1989, 1995; Zaichkowsky, 1985), high cost, or high risk (Murray and Schlacter, 1991; Zeithaml, 1981), goods and services (Murray, 1991). In short, information search is an integral part of consumer decision-making in any information environment. This is particularly true of consumer Web search because the Web is a non-broadcast medium in which consumers must actively search for information. Consequently, Web consumer search behavior is worthy of investigation for both academic and commercial reasons. Despite the widespread consumer use of the Web, little is known regarding consumer Web search behavior, although academics such as Floridi (1995), Hoffman and Novak (1995, 1996a, b), and Tan (1999) have recognized the need for such research, for example:
... to date virtually no scholarly effort has been undertaken by marketing academics to understand hypermedia Computer Mediated Environments, both as media for marketing communications and as markets in and of themselves (Hoffman and Novak, 1996a, p. 52).
There are also no published empirical studies examining how consumers behave in a virtual shopping environment (Tan, 1999, p. 164).
Since information search is so integral to on-line decision-making, the following research questions arise. What are the factors that affect consumer information search of the Web? Since on-line consumer decision-making (and purchase) is the desired end product of such on-line search behavior, a second research question is also relevant. What are the possible outcomes of consumer Web information search and what factors affect those outcomes? It is in response to these questions that the proposed model of consumer Web search is developed. Before proceeding with the development of the model, it is necessary to consider the 'cost' associated with consumer external information search.
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