"i didn't want that!" An Experimental Study on Deceptive Online Post-transaction Marketing Offers

Open Access
Nochenson, Alan Edward
Graduate Program:
Information Sciences and Technology
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
March 31, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Jens Grossklags, Thesis Advisor
  • Post-Transaction Offer Marketing
  • Online Experiment
  • Computer-Human Interaction
  • Protection of Personal Information.
Post-transaction marketing offers are often designed to mislead consumers into purchasing products that are only tangentially related to their primary purchase. These products are presented directly following the completion of legitimate first-party transactions. To sell these offers, marketers use deceptive tactics that include illegally acquiring data from merchants and exploiting cognitive psychology. These practices are not only unpopular with consumers, but are possibly illegal. A US Senate report released in 2009 estimated that between 1999 and 2009 over 35 million people were misled into purchasing offers that they did not want and did not use. Due to the lack of regulations, and the global nature of the Internet, these deceptive practices are far from being extinct. In order to address this problem, this thesis presents a scenario, based on actual cases, where a small music shopping site has partnered with a third-party marketer to show post-transaction marketing offers to consumers. After a successful primary transaction in the music store, customers are automatically redirected to a post-transaction offer. The goal of this thesis is to examine the effectiveness of two ways of intervening to mitigate the harm of the deceptive post-transaction offer. This problem can be addressed from the perspective of the first-party e-commerce site or the perspective of the third-party marketers. This thesis presents the results of two experiments, each with over 450 participants, which test solutions from these two perspectives. The first experiment highlights the difficulty in reducing the harm of post-transaction offers from the first-party merchant perspective – only the strongest intervention significantly reduced the likelihood of participants purchasing a post-transaction offer. The second experiment empirically tests how different presentations of post-transaction offers play a role in how many participants purchase the offers. By gathering data on the effectiveness of intervening from the first and third-party perspectives, this thesis aims to inform regulators about these issues for use in future policy decisions.