Identifying Consumers’ Information Needs in Online Search
Consumers routinely use online search engines, such as Google, to search for information. In response, many firms provide such information to attract consumers during their online searches. Thereby, a prerequisite for successfully attracting a firm’s target audience is identifying what information these consumers desire. To do so, firms must understand consumers’ information needs, that is, the information consumers seek to obtain with their searches. Yet, identifying information needs is non-trivial, as information needs naturally are (I) unobservable and (II) heterogeneous across consumers. This article aims to provide an approach for identifying consumers’ information needs within their online searches. To do so, we develop a novel market research approach and validate it in an empirical application. Our approach enables researchers and firms to collect primary data at scale in a real-time online search environment, and identify consumer information needs through unstructured data analysis. We implement our approach for online searches around “credit cards” in Germany. Our approach reveals nine broad information needs, including information around prices and fees, specific brands, traveling, or mobile payment options. Moreover, our analysis shows that information needs differ across consumers, for instance, across genders and along the purchase funnel.