How do consumers make online shopping choices? The mouse tells all

By our News Team | 2023

What are the key things that people consider before buying online? Researchers find that the computer mouse holds important clues.

Consumers are not always predictable when it comes to choosing products online, a concept that lies at the core of the latest research in consumer psychology from Cornell University in the US.

In the paper, titled ‘How Consumers Resolve Conflict over Branded Products: Evidence from Mouse Cursor Trajectories’ and recently published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Marketing Research, researchers used a novel mouse cursor-tracking method to reveal an intriguing interplay of cognitive processes that influence consumer decisions about brands and products.

Consumer Psychology

Photo by RDNE Stock project via Pexels

Associate professors Geoffrey Fisher and Kaitlin Woolley conducted several cursor-tracking studies for the project. 


In one, 46 students completed tasks involving 25 food brands and 39 clothing brands. In each task, participants made 200 choices between two items of different brands.


“By capturing the trajectory of a cursor’s locations, we estimate brand consideration time – the initial time at which consumers start to consider a brand’s desirability – and product consideration time, the initial time at which consumers start to consider a product’s desirability,” says Fisher, whose research focuses on marketing and neuro-economics. 


Consideration time influences consumer choice


“We find that such attribute consideration times differ and that these relative differences in consideration time influence consumers’ choice of branded products.”


Results indicate that while consumers typically process brand attributes relatively later than product attributes, the timing of this processing affects choice. When consumers trade off brand and product desirability, the earlier that they consider brand attributes, the more likely they are to choose the option from the preferred brand.


“This research unearths the complex interplay of consumer decision-making, where the sequence and timing of brand and product are attributed amidst multiple choices,” explains Woolley, who researches the psychological processes underlying consumer motivation. 


“By shedding light on these nuanced processes, the study paves the way for a deeper understanding of how consumers navigate the complex landscape of brand preferences.”


In one of the studies, results extend to decisions involving three attributes – namely brand, product and price. The researchers found that consumers process product desirability earlier than price desirability, whereas they process price and brand desirability at a similar time.


Another study reveals that advertisements can influence brand consideration: When ads succeed in making brand information top of mind over product information, consumers tend to resolve the conflict between choice options by selecting options from a preferred brand, even if it means choosing a less preferred product.


“Our findings suggest that any intervention that increases the relative time at which brands are processed should encourage consumers to make more brand-based choices by increasing the display of brand attributes on product packaging and in advertising,” Fisher recommends.


“Collecting cursor-tracking data is accessible, cheap and scalable. Companies can integrate the tools we introduce here to improve their ability to segment customers by identifying those who are likely to initially attend to brand-relevant features.”

You can find out more about the study here.

Dr Kin Kariisa

Group CEO - Next Media

Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

  • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
  • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
  • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
  • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.