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Abstract

This article deals with a possible future of e-commerce, not with how consumers or marketers currently shop on the Internet. In the future, artificial shopping agents may change e-commerce markets by significantly extending the search and evaluation capabilities of consumers. These agents have the potential to change current market relationships because they work on behalf of individual consumers, rather than offer advice to consumers on behalf of retailers. Additionally two types of shopping agents are possible, one of which may result in different patterns of choice than at present. The prospect of consumers relying on artificial agents for shopping decisions has raised concerns about negative impacts on both consumer welfare and the stability of markets. The article evaluates these concerns and concludes that major dislocations in consumer choice patterns are unlikely in the short run, but increasingly possible in the long run. © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. and Direct Marketing Educational Foundation, Inc.