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The Evolution of Product Search
(Dr. Babur De Los Santos with Michael R. Baye and and Matthijs R. Wildenbeest, Journal of Law, Economics &
Policy, 9(2): 201-21, 2013)
This paper examines the evolution of product search. We provide an overview of product search in the pre-internet era, and discuss how online search evolved from directory based search in the early 1990s to “vertical” search engines by the late 1990s. We also document the prominence of price comparison sites in the mid- 2000s, and the challenges these platforms faced through 2010. We then use comScore qSearch data to closely examine trends in product search between 2010 and 2012. We find that, today, the vast majority of shoppers conduct product searches at retailer sites and other marketplaces, whereas traditional price comparison sites have become less important.