Behavioral Effects of Using Software Agents for Product and Merchant Brokering: An Experimental Study of Consumer Decision-Making

Per E. Pedersen
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 5, Number 1, Fall 2000, pp. 125.

Abstract: Agent technology has been applied to design new services known as “shopbots” that simplify product and merchant brokering in several consumer industries. The use of shopbots is expected to reduce consumer search costs and make buying behavior more rational. Based upon a decision-making model, the author proposed 12 hypotheses pertaining to the effects of shopbot use on consumer buying behavior and tested them in an experiment in which consumers chose a financial-service provider. His hypotheses relating to changes in information-search behavior were strongly supported, but there was only partial support for the hypotheses on changes in choice behavior, and no evidence of differences at the problem-recognition and judgment stages of the buying process between consumers using shopbots and other consumers. Although this research was exploratory, the findings suggest that vendors of high-complexity products need not fear losing customers because of shopbot use. Since many customers perceive shopbots as value-added services that make information search on the Internet more satisfying, offering access to such services may help vendors to retain their customers.

Key Words and Phrases
: Consumer buying behavior, Internet marketing, product brokering, shopbots, software agents.