Reading list: consumer search parsimony

More evidence, if more were needed, in the keyword wars:
given that consumers prefer shorter queries, and that they may assume that some
attributes need more search than others, we should expect that at least some
searches using trademarks are from consumers not actually looking for
trademark-only results.  This research
about strategic search behavior reinforces that conclusion.  Using examples from frequently-searched
food-related terms, for example, the authors explain that:
[A] consumer who is looking for
information on Kitchenaid and/or Cuisinart food processors[] may be better off
using the query “Kitchenaid food processor” rather than a longer query that
includes “Cuisinart.” This is because Cuisinart food processors are often
compared to Kitchenaid, and the shorter query will retrieve at least one search
result that contains all relevant terms. Including “Cuisinart” into the query
greatly increases the proportion of results that contain this term, but this
comes at the expense of other terms, in particular “Kitchenaid.” The shorter
query already performs better under our simple implementation of the
“Compensatory-Average” metric that weighs all terms equally, but the difference
would be more pronounced if the consumer were primarily interested in Kitchenaid
over Cuisinart. In that case, omitting “Cuisinart” from the query would ensure
that most results mention “Kitchenaid,” while some results still mention
“Cuisinart.”
In sum, our field data suggest that
consumers indeed stand to benefit from being strategic in query formation, as
shorter queries may be at least as effective at retrieving desired content,
compared to queries that contain all the terms the consumer is searching for.
The fact that consumers tend to prefer shorter queries makes these shorter
queries even more attractive….
But do consumers actually engage in strategic searching?  They also run some experiments:
To sum up, the behavior we observe
suggests that participants are able to strategically leverage activation
probabilities between words, at least to some extent. Because our study uses a
somewhat  artificial lab setting, we do
not claim that the extent to which consumers leverage activation probabilities
in the real world is the same as in our study. Instead, we view our results as
proof of existence that consumers have some ability to strategically formulate
queries that contain only a subset of the terms they are interested in, but
that are effective at retrieving the other terms….
Our fndings suggest that the
content that is of interest to consumers is not simply the content mentioned in
their search queries, but also the content retrieved by their search queries.

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