Consumer Knowledge and External Pre-Purchase Information Search: A Meta-Analysis of the Evidence

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Purpose: This research reviews numerous studies of the relationship between consumer knowledge and external search in conventional marketing channels to investigate differences among these studies that have produced conflicting results. The findings provide a benchmark for future researchers and practitioners seeking to gain insight into consumer information search processes unfolding in the new environment of online, mobile, and social networking channels.

Methodology: A meta-analysis of an extensive array of empirical studies of the relationship between consumer knowledge and external information search was conducted. Regression analysis was used to test whether certain characteristics in the studies can explain variability in the effect sizes in which effect sizes are entered as dependent variables and moderators as independent variables.

Findings: Objective and subjective knowledge tend to increase search, while direct experience tends to reduce search. Consumers with higher objective knowledge search more when pursuing credence products. However, they search relatively less when pursuing search products. Consumers with higher subjective knowledge are much more likely to search in the context of experience products, but as is the case for objective knowledge having little effect on search for experience products, subjective knowledge has no significant effect on information seeking for search products. In addition, objective knowledge facilitates more information search in a complex decision-making context while higher subjective knowledge fosters more external information search in a simple decision-marketing context. Finally, the findings indicate that the knowledge search relationship reflects strong linkage in the pre-Internet era.

Originality: Relatively little is known about how the relationship between knowledge and information search varies across different types of products in simple or complex decision-making contexts. This study begins to fill this gap by providing insight into the relative importance of objective knowledge, subjective knowledge, and direct experience in influencing consumer information search activities for search, experience, and credence products in simple or complex decision-making contexts.




This article is the authors' final published version in Consumer Culture Theory, Volume 15, August 2014, Pages 353-389.

The published version is available at https://doi.org/10.1108/S0885-2111(2013)0000015023. Copyright © Emerald Group Publishing Limited