Competitive Effects of Mass Customization
The existing theoretical literature on mass customization maintains that customization reduces product differentiation and intensifies price competition. In contrast, operations management studies argue that customization serves primarily to differentiate a company from its competitors. Interactive involvement of the customer in product design creates an affective relationship with the firm, relaxing price competition. This paper provides a model that incorporates consumer involvement to explain the phenomena described in the operations management literature.Two firms on the Hotelling line compete for a continuum of consumers with heterogeneous brand preferences. An exogenously given fraction of consumers is potentially interested in customization. Consumer benefits from customization are the rewards from a special shopping experience and the value of product customization (a better fitting product); these benefits are higher for consumers located closer to the customizing brand. When a consumer purchases a customized product, he/she incurs waiting costs. Each firm simultaneously decides whether to offer standard products, customized products, or both, and then engage in price competition. I show that customization increases product differentiation, leading to less intense price competition. Depending on the parameter values, in equilibrium either both firms offer customized products, one firm offers customized products and the other standard and customized products, or one firm offers customized products and the other standard products. I perform comparative statics analysis with respect to the fraction of consumers interested in customization, the waiting costs, and the fixed cost of customization.
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Volume (Year): 10 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 (October)
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