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Information search behavior on the Web has two components. The first is Web-wide (or inter-site) search in which a likely source of relevant information is located by the use of a search engine or from knowledge of a specific site. The second search activity is intra-site search, which is the search activity that takes place within a relevant site to obtain specific information. Such within-site search typically has the objective of either eliminating a good or a service from further consideration or qualifying the good or service for inclusion in a subsequent consideration set. Search behavior in the Web environment normally includes both Web-wide search and within-site search. A Web searcher typically cycles between the two as they move through the information environment of the Web in a similar way to a consumer moving through a complex physical shopping and information environment such as a large department store or a shopping complex. An individual's Web search may thus be characterized in terms of their inter and intra-site search behavior. These two activities can be considered respectively as measures of the breadth of the search-the number of individual Web sites visited, and the depth of search-the amount of search within sites. The concept of the breadth and depth of a search is not new in the field of consumer behavior, as these dimensions have been reported in laboratory-based IDB experiments such as those of Jacoby, Chestnut and Fisher (1978) and in Web browser development and utilization research (e.g., Tauscher and Greenberg, 1997). In addition, Hoffman and Novak (1996b) suggested that depth and breadth measures might be useful Web metrics.
Consumer search activity in physical environments has often been recorded by measuring the number of information sources consulted (e.g., Katona and Mueller, 1955; King, 1965; Newman and Staelin, 1972) and the amount of information accessed (e.g., Blodgett and Hill, 1991; Claxton et al., 1974; Katona and Mueller, 1955; Newman and Staelin, 1972; Punj and Staelin, 1983; Srinivasan and Ratchford, 1991). These measures have also been used in experimental laboratory studies using Information Display Board (IDB) matrices (e.g., Bettman and Kakkar, 1977), and also in post-hoc survey-research studies, for example, Kiel and Layton (1981), and Srinivasan and Ratchford (1991). The latter studies included variables such as "the number of dealers visited" and "the number of phone calls made". Thus, the number of information sources consulted and the amount of information accessed are included in the proposed model.
In consumer behavior research, uncontrolled information environments have generally been investigated via post-hoc survey-research studies. It is suggested that Web consumer search be recorded by focusing on the user's information acquisition actions and information sources, using variables similar to those used in previous post-hoc survey-research studies, but derived from elements of the Web environment itself. This empirical approach to search behavior measurement has been used by many researchers including Claxton et al. (1974), Kiel and Layton (1981), Furse, Punj and Stewart (1984), and McColl-Kennedy and Fetter (1999). While this approach measures consumer exposure to information, it does not imply either the comprehension or the use of the information in subsequent decision-making. It is now appropriate to discuss the specific variables used to record Web search behavior.
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