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Consumer web page search, clicking behavior and reaction time

Charles F. Hofacker (Department of Marketing, College of Business, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, USA)
Jamie Murphy (Department of Marketing, M252 UWA Business School, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia)

Direct Marketing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1750-5933

Article publication date: 5 June 2009

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explain why visitors click the last several menu items on a web page at a higher rate than middle items in the menu, a menu recency effect. A secondary goal is to test the use of visitor reaction time data as routinely collected by live web servers on the internet and the use of such data in understanding consumer response to direct marketing efforts at the level of an individual web page.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper uses a field experiment on a live web site belonging to a medium sized hospitality business, specifically a restaurant. Data, including visitor reaction time, come from the standard web log files routinely collected on all web sites. The sample consisted of more than 40,000 visitors to the web site.

Findings

The reasons for the recency effect seem more likely to pertain to short‐term memory advantages for later menu items and less likely to relate to eye movements in which the visitor's gaze prematurely jumps to the end of a menu.

Originality/value

The first contribution of this paper is to bring to bear a very large sample in order to explain a paradox of search behavior, namely that consumers are more likely to click on the last link in a menu than middle links. Understanding this phenomenon will allow web site managers to better optimize their sites according to their marketing goals. The second contribution is to demonstrate the usefulness of reaction time data in a direct marketing context. Web log servers automatically collect such data. Such data represent an ideal opportunity to leverage the direct connection between marketers and consumers that exists online.

Keywords

Citation

Hofacker, C.F. and Murphy, J. (2009), "Consumer web page search, clicking behavior and reaction time", Direct Marketing: An International Journal, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 88-96. https://doi.org/10.1108/17505930910964759

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited