Wine Online: Search Costs Affect Competition on Price, Quality, and Distribution
A fundamental dilemma confronts retailers with stand-alone sites on the World Wide Web and those attempting to build electronic malls for delivery via the Internet, online services, or interactive television (Alba et al. 1997). For consumers, the main potential advantage of electronic shopping over other channels is a reduction in search costs for products and product-related information. Retailers, however, fear that such lowering of consumers' search costs will intensify competition and lower margins by expanding the scope of competition from local to national and international. Some retailers' electronic offerings have been constructed to thwart comparison shopping and to ward off price competition, dimming the appeal of many initial electronic shopping services. Ceteris paribus, if electronic shopping lowers the cost of acquiring price information, it should increase price sensitivity, just as is the case for price advertising. In a similar vein, though, electronic shopping can lower the cost of search for quality information. Most analyses ignore the offsetting potential of the latter effect to lower price sensitivity in the current period. They also ignore the potential of maximally transparent shopping systems to produce welfare gains that give consumers a long-term reason to give repeat business to electronic merchants (cf. Alba et al. 1997, Bakos 1997). We test conditions under which lowered search costs should increase or decrease price sensitivity. We conducted an experiment in which we varied independently three different search costs via electronic shopping: search cost for price information, search cost for quality information within a given store, and search cost for comparing across two competing electronic wine stores. Consumers spent their own money purchasing wines from two competing electronic merchants selling some overlapping and some unique wines. We show four primary empirical results. First, for differentiated products like wines, lowering the cost of search for quality information reduced price sensitivity. Second, price sensitivity for wines common to both stores increased when cross-store comparison was made easy, as many analysts have assumed. However, easy cross-store comparison had no effect on price sensitivity for unique wines. Third, making information environments more transparent by lowering all three search costs produced welfare gains for consumers. They liked the shopping experience more, selected wines they liked more in subsequent tasting, and their retention probability was higher when they were contacted two months later and invited to continue using the electronic shopping service from home. Fourth, we examined the implications of these results for manufacturers and examined how market shares of wines sold by two stores or one were affected by search costs. When store comparison was difficult, results showed that the market share of common wines was proportional to share of distribution; but when store comparison was made easy, the market share returns to distribution decreased signi.cantly. All these results suggest incentives for retailers carrying differentiated goods to make information environments maximally transparent, but to avoid price competition by carrying more unique merchandise.
Volume (Year): 19 (2000)
Issue (Month): 1 (April)
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: 7240 Parkway Drive, Suite 300, Hanover, MD 21076 USA|
Web page: http://www.informs.org/
More information through EDIRC
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Dhar, Ravi, 1997. " Consumer Preference for a No-Choice Option," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(2), pages 215-231, September.
- David J. Reibstein & Paul W. Farris, 1995. "Market Share and Distribution: A Generalization, a Speculation, and Some Implications," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 14(3_supplem), pages 190-202.
- Luce, Mary Frances, 1998. " Choosing to Avoid: Coping with Negatively Emotion-Laden Consumer Decisions," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(4), pages 409-433, March.
- Lynch, John G, Jr, 1982. " On the External Validity of Experiments in Consumer Research," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(3), pages 225-239, December.
- Anil Kaul & Dick R. Wittink, 1995. "Empirical Generalizations About the Impact of Advertising on Price Sensitivity and Price," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 14(3_supplem), pages 151-160.
- J. Yannis Bakos, 1997. "Reducing Buyer Search Costs: Implications for Electronic Marketplaces," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 43(12), pages 1676-1692, December.
- Huber, Joel & Payne, John W & Puto, Christopher, 1982. " Adding Asymmetrically Dominated Alternatives: Violations of Regularity and the Similarity Hypothesis," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(1), pages 90-98, June.
- Ehrlich, Isaac & Fisher, Lawrence, 1982. "The Derived Demand for Advertising: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 366-388, June.
- Gerald Häubl & Valerie Trifts, 2000. "Consumer Decision Making in Online Shopping Environments: The Effects of Interactive Decision Aids," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 19(1), pages 4-21, May.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:inm:ormksc:v:19:y:2000:i:1:p:83-103. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mirko Janc)
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.