Modeling Multi-Year Customers’ Considerations and Choices in China’s Auto Market Using Two-Stage Bipartite Network Analysis

Youyi Bi, Yunjian Qiu, Zhenghui Sha, Mingxian Wang, Yan Fu, Noshir Contractor, Wei Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Choice modeling is important in transportation planning, marketing and engineering design, as it can quantify the influence of product attributes and customer demographics on customers’ choice behaviors. Consumer studies suggest that customers’ choice-making process often consists of two different stages: customers first consider subsets of available products on the market, and then make the final choice from the subsets. As existing preference modeling is mostly focused on the choice stage, there is a need to develop methods for understanding customer preferences at both stages, and investigate how customer preferences change from “consideration” to “choice”, and whether such changes will be consistent over time. In this paper, we study customers’ consideration and purchase behaviors in China’s auto market using multi-year survey datasets. We demonstrate how descriptive network analysis and analytic network models (bipartite Exponential Random Graph Model (ERGM)) capture the change of customers’ preferences from the consideration stage to the choice stage in multiple consecutive years. Our results show that factors such as fuel consumption per unit power, car make origin, and place of production influence customers’ considerations and final purchase decisions in different ways, and this difference between consideration and purchase is consistent over time. The main contribution of this study is that we validate the two-stage network-based modeling approach and its utility in preference elicitation using multiple-year dataset, which sheds lights on understanding the trend of customers’ consideration and choice behaviors across years. Our study also contributes to a refined interpretation of the ERGM results with categorization of continuous variables into ranges, which shows that customer choice decisions may be more qualitatively influenced by product attributes rather than quantitatively. Our approach is generic and thus can be applied to solving broader choice modeling problems, such as the transportation mode selection and the adoption of clean technology (e.g., electric vehicles).

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNetworks and Spatial Economics
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Auto market
  • Choice model
  • Consideration
  • Customer preference
  • ERGM
  • Network analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Artificial Intelligence

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