Searching in Choice Mode: Consumer Decision Processes in Product Search with Recommendations
This article examines how a common form of decision assistance—recommendations that present products in order of their predicted attractiveness to a consumer—transforms decision processes during product search. Such recommendations induce a shift in consumers' decision orientation in search from being directed at whether additional alternatives should be inspected to identifying the best alternative among those already encountered, which is common when choosing from predetermined sets of alternatives. That is, recommendations cause consumers to search in “choice mode.” Evidence from three studies provides support for such a transformation of search decisions, which manifests itself in two respects. First, compared with unassisted search, recommendations lead consumers to assess a product they encounter in their search by comparing it less with the best one discovered up to that point and more with other previously inspected alternatives. Second, recommendations transform how variability in product attractiveness affects stopping decisions such that greater variability causes consumers to search less, which is contrary to what is commonly observed in search without recommendations.