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Two at the Top: Quality Differentiation in Markets with Switching Costs

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  • Gehrig, Thomas
  • Stenbacka, Rune

Abstract

We explore the effects of switching costs on the subgame perfect quality decisions of oligopolists with repeated price competition. We establish a strong strategic quality premium. We show that competition for the establishment of customer relationships will eliminate low-quality firms in period 1 and that low-quality firms can survive only based on poaching profits. The equilibrium configuration is characterized by an agglomeration of two providers of top-quality as soon as switching cost heterogeneity is sufficiently significant. We demonstrate a finiteness property, according to which the two top-quality firms dominate the market with a joint market share exceeding 50%.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 4996.

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Date of creation: Apr 2005
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:4996

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Keywords: natural oligopoly; poaching; quality choice; switching costs;

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  1. Victor Ginsburgh & André De Palma & Yorgo Papageorgiou & Jacques-François Thisse, 1999. "The principle of minimum differentiation holds under sufficient heterogeneity," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/3319, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  2. Klemperer, Paul, 1995. "Competition When Consumers Have Switching Costs: An Overview with Applications to Industrial Organization, Macroeconomics, and International Trade," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(4), pages 515-39, October.
  3. Dos Santos Ferreira, R. & Thisse, J.-F., . "Horizontal and vertical differentiation: The Launhardt model," CORE Discussion Papers RP -1216, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  4. Farrell, Joseph & Klemperer, Paul, 2006. "Coordination and Lock-In: Competition with Switching Costs and Network Effects," CEPR Discussion Papers 5798, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Gehrig, Thomas, 1998. "Competing markets," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 277-310, February.
  6. IRMEN, Andreas & THISSE, Jacques-Francois, 1997. "Competition in multi-characteristics spaces: hotelling was almost right," CORE Discussion Papers 1997053, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  7. Gehrig, Thomas, 1996. "Natural oligopoly and customer networks in intermediated markets," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 101-118.
  8. Shaked, Avner & Sutton, John, 1982. "Relaxing Price Competition through Product Differentiation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(1), pages 3-13, January.
  9. Yongmin Chen, 1997. "Paying Customers to Switch," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(4), pages 877-897, December.
  10. Thomas Gehrig & Rune Stenbacka, 2004. "Differentiation-Induced Switching Costs and Poaching," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(4), pages 635-655, December.
  11. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1999. "Customer Poaching and Brand Switching," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1871, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
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