"Window" Shopping Online: Cognitive Processing of General and Specific Product Windows

Kevin Wise, Saleem Alhabash and Petya Eckler
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Michigan State University and University of Strathclyde

Think about the last time you went online to shop for something. Did you know exactly what you wanted, down to specific details such as brand, style, color, or size? Or did you begin with only a general idea of what you wanted, or perhaps no idea at all? The experience of browsing an online shopping website largely consists of transitions between general pages featuring arrays of products organized by some feature and specific pages devoted to particular products. The shopper may enter specific criteria into a search engine then browse an array of results (e.g., Apple MacBook Pro). Conversely, the shopper may click on a specific category from a menu (e.g., computers) and browse within that category, further narrowing the browsing range by selecting progressively more specific categories (e.g., laptop → operating system → screen size). Whichever mode is taken, the online shopper typically navigates through a series of product arrays to reach a final destination: a page devoted to a specific product that elicits the contemplation of a purchase decision.