How Do Popular Rankings Affect Mobile Shopping: A Large-Scale Field Experiment
Mobile platforms incorporate the search aid system with popular rankings of peer searched topics to motivate and facilitate customer search journey. Yet, there is scant empirical evidence to examine how such popular ranking search aid system (PRSA) affects customer mobile shopping behaviors. We collaborate with Meituan Company, the leading local life service mobile app in China, for a large-scale field experiment, in which a random group of 25,921 customers expose to the search aid system with 10 most popular dish genres searched by peers when tabbing the search bar for food ordering. Our empirical analyses demonstrate that PRSA engenders more merchant browsing (e.g., clicks) and purchase (e.g., orderings) behaviors on the mobile app. Further analyses demonstrate that PRSA not only drives the total volume of searches but also has a priming effect altering customer search intent. Specifically, despite the overall search volume increase, PRSA stimulates customers to perform more nondirected searches (i.e., search with nonspecific keyword related to generic product category or merchant type) but fewer directed searches (i.e., search with specific keyword related to a merchant or product). Exploring heterogeneous effects across various types of merchants, we find that although PRSA stimulates customers to view and purchase from both new and repeated merchants, customers are more likely to choose popular merchants (based on click volume) instead of niche merchants due to the higher ranking of popular merchants in the search result. Additional online lab study provides more nuanced understanding of the search behavior changes by showing that the PRSA could significantly reduce participants’ search cost (e.g., lower cognitive effort and shorter time when typing the search keyword), provide useful external information cues (e.g., less reliance on past search and purchase experience), and prime more nondirected searches (e.g., more likely to type nonspecific keywords in the simulated search process). Our work offers theoretical contributions and managerial implications for mobile commerce operations.
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