This paper reports on an exploratory study undertaken to deal with the intricacy of consumer behaviour in a buying process for a complex high involvement service bundle spanning both offline and online channels. A key finding is that consumers switch repeatedly between online and offline channels and between different types of information source to satisfy their search needs. This offers a challenge for communications management if organisations wish to add customer value by minimising their customer time and effort search costs. Prior online channel research has not acknowledged off-line information complementarity for complex high involvement search. Travel agents and principal service providers, for example, are likely to need reintermediation rather than disintermediation in the form of alternative information sources to add customer value as they move through a buying process. The study finds that for complex hedonic services in particular the current frameworks are inadequate for model construction and suggests some other areas for inclusion in this research stream.
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