Construal Matching in Online Search: Applying Text Analysis to Illuminate the Consumer Decision Journey

Ashlee Humphreys*, Mathew S. Isaac, Rebecca Jen Hui Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


As consumers move through their decision journey, they adopt different goals (e.g., transactional vs. informational). In this research, the authors propose that consumer goals can be detected through textual analysis of online search queries and that both marketers and consumers can benefit when paid search results and advertisements match consumer search–related goals. In bridging construal level theory and textual analysis, the authors show that consumers at different stages of the decision journey tend to assume different levels of mental construal, or mindsets (i.e., abstract vs. concrete). They find evidence of a fluency-driven matching effect in online search such that when consumer mindsets are more abstract (more concrete), consumers generate textual search queries that use more abstract (more concrete) language. Furthermore, they are more likely to click on search engine results and ad content that matches their mindset, thereby experiencing more search satisfaction and perceiving greater goal progress. Six empirical studies, including a pilot study, a survey, three lab experiments, and a field experiment involving over 128,000 ad impressions provide support for this construal matching effect in online search.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1101-1119
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Marketing Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • abstract vs. concrete mindsets
  • construal level
  • consumer decision journey
  • goal progress
  • online search
  • processing fluency
  • search queries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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