E-commerce, which has grown exponentially because of Internet technology, has induced changes at the market, industry, and economic levels, and has profoundly altered life, politics, and society [1
]. Online network platforms are used globally to undertake various online services, and such platforms provide a robust means for generating income and, for an immeasurable number of consumers from around the world, to shop online [2
]. Shopping websites display numerous products organized by category; despite being produced by different firms, and many of these products share similar features. However, these products, along with their information, are too great in number to be processed by the human brain because of a human’s limited cognitive capacity, thus causing the consumer confusion and low satisfaction [3
]. In addition, shopping is a series of decision-making processes aimed at satisfying consumer needs. The focus of academic attention should be shifted to online shopping behavior because of the mismatch between excessive stimuli and limited brain capacity [6
]. According to Drucker [7
], “the objective of a business is to create and retain customers”. Information about customers largely concerns their consumption behavior, which involves the processing and selection of product information.
Generally, retailers want consumers to spend more time shopping, browsing, and searching for products in the hope that they make a purchase. On the other hand, consumers may want to restrict their duration of stay on websites due to a perceived risk of loss of time or convenience [8
]. Previous research discussing the purchasing decision process has assumed that shoppers face time pressure. For example, Lin and Wu [9
] found that time pressure will increase the proportion of consumers unable to make a judgment or a choice. Vermeir and Kenhove [10
] suggested that consumers under high time pressure search less for coupons and products with a promotion. Rieskamp and Hoffrage [11
] demonstrate that compared to those under low time pressure, individuals under high time pressure accelerate the search for information, using less information, and staying focused on the most important features. Liu et al. [12
] indicate that when shopping online under time pressure, participants’ observation length and count for browsing products with high brand awareness were respectively longer and higher than those for browsing products with low brand awareness. However, when they shopped online without time pressure, no difference between products with high and low brand awareness levels was observed.
Time pressure is an essential variable of consumer behavior; it prompts a decision to be made within a limited time [13
]. Moon and Lee [14
] perceived time-pressure purchases as a consumption decision made within time constraints specified by the consumer, suggesting that time pressure indicates a sense of psychological urgency. Moreover, consumers typically base their purchasing decisions more on limited knowledge than on careful deliberation and comparison; such decisions tend to be made in a matter of seconds [15
]. Pieters and Warlop [18
] showed that time pressure affects visual attention in ways such that consumers skip certain brand elements to optimize their decision-making. Moreover, both the cue utilization model proposed by Olson and Jacoby [19
] and the theory of planned behavior proposed by Ajzen [20
] assume that consumers are aware of their purchase motives and can distinguish products and brands they intend to purchase. Thus, some consumers have selection criteria that form a basis for evaluating product brands and selecting the top-ranked ones.
Shoppers behavior online has been reported in many studies, and the browsing behavior and attention span of shoppers engaging in online shopping under time pressure were investigated in the present study. The remainder of this paper is structured as follows. Section 2
reviews relevant literature and describes hypotheses about online shopping behavior. Section 3
introduces the method of this study. The findings are presented in Section 4
and their implications and suggestions are discussed in Section 5
. Finally, Section 6
concludes this study and outlines this paper’s contributions.
2. Background and Hypotheses
Time pressure is an influential factor in consumer behavior [21
]; it can have a marked influence on decision-making and restrict information-processing ability [22
]. Its effects on people’s decision making intensify in the face of information overload [23
]. Moreover, Payne et al. [24
] found that people progress through a hierarchy of responses as time pressure intensifies. Specifically, shoppers under moderate time pressure become faster and slightly more selective at information processing, whereas those under heavy pressure tend to skim through information superficially without examining every single detail. However, some studies have suggested that time pressure typically prompts decision makers to make decisions and execute decision-making strategies through simple means [25
], and that people under time constraints can turn to other strategies to facilitate their information processing [27
]. In addition, Levy [28
] showed that when people were in a hurry, they hastened their decision making. Pieters and Warlop [18
] argued that consumers under time pressure will filter some information, accelerate information acquisition, and adjust their information acquisition strategies.
Generally, time pressure reduces visual attention [29
]. Although products with newly designed packaging can attract visual attention [30
], such products can be neglected by people who perceive their packaging to be overly novel [31
], leading to financial loss and even the removal of some products from the shelf [32
Clement et al. [6
] noted that consumers under time pressure tend to focus on certain products and brands, as well as their characteristics. Studies conducted in brick-and-mortar stores have found that the timing of purchases made under time pressure is similar to those made when not under time pressure. This indicates that consumers do not select certain products due to time pressure; they either make decisions in a matter of seconds when they need to identify familiar information quickly from a pool of information [33
], or adjust their search strategies to concentrate on the design features of brands [18
]. Accordingly, this study argues that shoppers under time pressure focus on fewer products to facilitate their product search on shopping websites, and that they adjust their search strategies to identify the salient design features of products; this information-processing strategy reflects the stimulation of the brain in a top-down fashion. Based on the aforementioned argument, Hypotheses 1 and 2 were formulated as follows:
Shoppers view fewer products when shopping under time pressure than they would when shopping not under time pressure.
Shoppers focus more on renowned brands when shopping under time pressure than they would when shopping under no time pressure.
Our ability to focus on the task at hand is a key element in efficient information processing and our attention is easily distracted by novel events or changes in the stimulus environment [34
]. Bettman et al. [35
] maintained that attention changes occur because of reflexive reactions to threats such as time pressure. In a study by Ordonez and Benson [27
], subjects dealing with decisions under time pressure adopted different decision-making strategies to accelerate their information-processing speed. Zur and Breznitz [36
] also argued that decision makers typically spend less time viewing information when they are under time pressure, indicating that under such circumstances they may change their decision-making strategies and thereby change their level of attention. Therefore, Hypothesis 3 was formulated as follows:
Under time pressure, shoppers engaging in online shopping are less attentive than those not under time pressure.
In the United Kingdom, approximately 70% of consumers who enter grocery stores have incomplete purchase intentions [37
]. Previous research [38
] has shown that 85% of consumers do not handle commodity items while shopping and 90% of consumers view only the covers of commodity items. Furthermore, consumers tend to purchase products they like after simply viewing them; such actions occur most frequently during online shopping [39
]. Brands with sophisticated designs and noticeable visual elements (e.g., product names, logos, layouts, and slogans) can make a deep impression on consumers [40
From a cognitive neuropsychological perspective, visual attention can be expressed in terms of orientation-attention and discover-attention. Orientation-attention is a parallel and non-selective pre-attentive search process that enables a considerable amount of information to be processed efficiently and simultaneously. Discover-attention is a serial search process of sequentially searching for information details on the packaging of a product (e.g., textual content and caution labels). In the view of Perkins [43
], orientation-attention is the primitive stage of attention, whereas discover-attention enables the complete understanding of a commodity. Neither cognitive system can be distinguished easily in real-world contexts other than shopping [44
]. Generally, consumers depend on slow, serial search processes [45
]. The presence of branded products and previous online shopping experiences can facilitate their search. Thus, when they have to make purchase decisions in a short time frame or if they intend to purchase renowned products, they tend to simplify their search on shopping websites. Clement et al. [6
] assumed that a comprehensive understanding of product catalogs and experiences of shopping at physical stores can expedite product searches, although their findings showed that consumer product searches in brick-and-mortar contexts were facilitated not by their familiarity with product catalogs, but by their understanding of the way products were displayed in-store. However, this study argues that product catalogs on shopping websites differ from those of physical stores; hence, they might facilitate online product searches. Accordingly, Hypotheses 4 and 5 were formulated as follows:
Familiarity with product catalogs on shopping websites can reduce product search time during shopping.
Experience using other shopping websites can reduce product search time during shopping.