Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

Economics

Language

English (en)

Date of Award

1-1-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Stephanie Lau

Abstract

Essay 1: "Price-Matching in a Sequential Search Duopoly" While substantial research has tried to determine if price-matching guarantees are anti-competitive, most previous studies have overlooked the effect that these policies have on consumer search behavior. This essay examines how price-matching guarantees affect consumer behavior and prices in a model of sequential price search. By endogenizing consumers' acquisition of price information, I find that price-matching may raise prices in three new ways. First, price-matching diminishes firms' incentives to lower prices to attract consumers who have no cost of search. Second, for consumers with positive search costs, price-matching lowers the marginal benefit of search, inducing them to accept higher prices. Finally, higher prices may come about because price-matching can lead to asymmetric equilibria where one firm runs fewer sales and both firms tend to offer smaller discounts than in a symmetric equilibrium. These price increasing effects grow in proportion to the number of consumers who make use of price-matching guarantees as well as in the amount of asymmetry that prevails in equilibrium. Essay 2: "Asymmetric Sequential Search": with Carmen Astorne-Figari) Rival firms often find themselves catering to a very different mix of customers from that of their competitors. This can lead to variations in pricing behavior even when other factors, such as product quality and the cost of production, are held constant across firms. In this essay, we use a model of sequential consumer price search to explore how asymmetries in the demand structures across firms impact firm pricing. In our model, a fraction of consumers must pay a cost to search for prices beyond their local firm and firms serve different fractions of local consumers. The price distribution of a firm with more local consumers first order stochastically dominates that of a firm with fewer local consumers and places positive probability on its upper bound. This means that a firm with more local consumers has a higher average price and runs sales less frequently. The frequency of sales diminishes in the number of local consumers, but price dispersion persists even if all consumers are local to a single firm. Moreover, as the fraction of consumers who search without cost increases, firms tend to offer bigger discounts, while the likelihood of a sale may fall. Essay 3: "Energizer: The Bunny or the Battery? Advertising as a Way to Publicize Either the Brand or the Good": with Carmen Astorne-Figari) Experimental studies and surveys of consumers suggest that an important role of advertising is to convince consumers that they want the product and to buy it from the brand advertising it. However, because of competitive clutter, an advertisement that induces a consumer to enter the market may lead her to purchase from a competing brand. Thus, we can characterize two effects of advertising:: i) an effect that benefits the individual firm by promoting binding between the brand and the advertised good and: ii) a "public good" quality that benefits all producers of the good by inducing additional consumers to enter the market. We analyze these two effects to study the relationship between advertising and market size, price, firm profit and consumer welfare.

DOI

https://doi.org/10.7936/K7PK0D6Z

Comments

Permanent URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.7936/K7PK0D6Z

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