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Platform Competition and Incumbency Advantage under Heterogeneous Lock-in effects

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  • Giovannetti, Emanuele
  • Siciliani, Paolo

Abstract

Digital platform markets perform a myriad of daily transactions, providing internet-mediated exchange possibilities: between consumers, for peer-to-peer exchanges; between businesses, for digital value chains; and between businesses and consumers, in digital marketplaces. It is essential for competition that new entrants are able to join platform markets. However, these markets are often characterised by proprietary innovations, especially in data analytics applied to existing user data. The algorithmic analysis of user data and information might increase incumbency advantages, creating lock-in effects among users and making them more reluctant to join an entrant platform. The individual costs of these lock-in effects may differ between the sides of a platform, e.g., between sellers and buyers, and across users within each side, e.g., between sellers with different costs and/or propensities to join an entrant platform. Moreover, these costs will interact with cross-group network effects, another well-studied source of incumbency advantage. This paper develops a model exploring how different levels of lock-in effects may favour an incumbent platform. The conditions for platforms’ coexistence, to avoid market tipping, require lock-in effects to be "stronger" than cross-group effects. However, this condition also provides a market advantage to the incumbent platform compared to the entrant's. Therefore, policies aimed at reducing lock-in effects, such as mandating data portability, may counterintuitively impair entry conditions as the incumbent sets its prices more aggressively with lower lock-in effects.

Suggested Citation

  • Giovannetti, Emanuele & Siciliani, Paolo, 2023. "Platform Competition and Incumbency Advantage under Heterogeneous Lock-in effects," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 63(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:iepoli:v:63:y:2023:i:c:s0167624523000161
    DOI: 10.1016/j.infoecopol.2023.101031
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