Operations, Information and Decisions Papers

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

5-2008

Publication Source

Marketing Science

Volume

27

Issue

3

Start Page

461

Last Page

473

DOI

10.1287/mksc.1070.0304

Abstract

This paper studies a model in which consumers search among multiple competing firms for products that match their preferences at a reasonable price. We focus on how easier search, possibly due to the adoption of search-facilitating technologies such as the Internet, influences equilibrium prices, assortments, firm profits, and consumer welfare. Conventional wisdom suggests that easier search creates a competition-intensifying effect that puts pressure on firms to lower their prices and reduce assortments. However, in our model we demonstrate that search also exhibits a market-expansion effect that encourages firms to expand their assortment—easier search means that each firm is searched by more consumers. Because of broader assortments, consumers are more likely to find products that better match their ideal preferences, improving the efficiency of the market. In fact, we demonstrate that the market-expansion effect can even dominate the competition-intensifying effect potentially leading to higher prices, broader assortments, more profits, and expanded welfare.

Keywords

Internet, price competition, assortment, product variety, long-tail phenomenon, game theory, differentiated competition

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Date Posted: 27 November 2017

This document has been peer reviewed.