Online Advertising Suppresses Visual Competition during Planned Purchases

R.J.A. van der Lans, Rik Pieters, M. Wedel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Online advertising can help consumers to implement their purchase intentions on shopping websites. This research tests the hypothesis that online advertising can speed-up product search by visually suppressing competing products rather than by enhancing the target product on websites that lack a systematic visual organization. First, a survey shows that searching for products on a shopping website after having clicked on an online ad is a common experience. Second, a lay-theory experiment shows that the majority of participants incorrectly predict that online ads do not affect product search but if these ads do, product search would be independent of shopping website design. Third, three eye-tracking and two search-time experiments reveal that online ads with an image of the target product improved search speed by about 25%, for websites without a systematic visual organization of products. Improved search speed was primarily due to faster rejection of competing products, because the ads helped to perceptually suppress their color features. These results provide new insights into online advertising effects, the fundamental search processes through which these accrue, and how ads can support consumers in making their planned purchases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)374-393
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • product search
  • intention implementation
  • online advertising effects
  • eye tracking
  • attention


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