The first stage in the consumer buying process is generally recognised to be that of the information search. This stage is recognised to be an important phase during which promotional messages should reach the intending consumer. Like many other stages of the buying process information seeking becomes more structured and constrained in the e‐shopping environment. In particular, the ability to collect product information and make comparisons between the different product offerings from different providers, possibly across national and currency boundaries, is often viewed as one of the main competitive challenges of e‐shopping. This article first visits models of the consumer buying process. It then explores the two approaches to information seeking, browsing and directed searching, and then proceeds to identify the tools that support these approaches. The complexity of variety in these tools is explored, in order to set the scene for understanding the complexity of the options with which the shopper is confronted.
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