IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/inm/ormnsc/v46y2000i4p563-585.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Frictionless Commerce? A Comparison of Internet and Conventional Retailers

Author

Listed:
  • Erik Brynjolfsson

    (MIT Sloan School of Management, 50 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139)

  • Michael D. Smith

    (MIT Sloan School of Management, 50 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139)

Abstract

There have been many claims that the Internet represents a new nearly "frictionless market." Our research empirically analyzes the characteristics of the Internet as a channel for two categories of homogeneous products---books and CDs. Using a data set of over 8,500 price observations collected over a period of 15 months, we compare pricing behavior at 41 Internet and conventional retail outlets. We find that prices on the Internet are 9--16% lower than prices in conventional outlets, depending on whether taxes, shipping, and shopping costs are included in the price. Additionally, we find that Internet retailers' price adjustments over time are up to 100 times smaller than conventional retailers' price adjustments---presumably reflecting lower menu costs in Internet channels. We also find that levels of price dispersion depend importantly on the measures employed. When we compare the prices posted by different Internet retailers we find substantial dispersion. Internet retailer prices differ by an average of 33% for books and 25% for CDs. However, when we weight these prices by proxies for market share, we find dispersion is lower in Internet channels than in conventional channels, reflecting the dominance of certain heavily branded retailers. We conclude that while there is lower friction in many dimensions of Internet competition, branding, awareness, and trust remain important sources of heterogeneity among Internet retailers.

Suggested Citation

  • Erik Brynjolfsson & Michael D. Smith, 2000. "Frictionless Commerce? A Comparison of Internet and Conventional Retailers," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 46(4), pages 563-585, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:46:y:2000:i:4:p:563-585
    DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.46.4.563.12061
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.46.4.563.12061
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL: https://libkey.io/10.1287/mnsc.46.4.563.12061?utm_source=ideas
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1982. "Limit Pricing and Entry under Incomplete Information: An Equilibrium Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(2), pages 443-459, March.
    2. Steven Salop & Joseph Stiglitz, 1977. "Bargains and Ripoffs: A Model of Monopolistically Competitive Price Dispersion," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 44(3), pages 493-510.
    3. Urban, Glen L. & Sultan, Fareena. & Qualls, William J. 1953-, 1998. "Trust based marketing on the internet," Working papers WP 4035-98., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
    4. Stahl, Dale O., 1996. "Oligopolistic pricing with heterogeneous consumer search," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 243-268.
    5. Levy, Daniel & Bergen, Mark & Dutta, Shantanu & Venable, Robert, 1997. "The Magnitude of Menu Costs: Direct Evidence from Large U.S. Supermarket Chains," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 791-824.
    6. Stigler, George J., 2011. "Economics of Information," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 5, pages 35-49.
    7. Varian, Hal R, 1980. "A Model of Sales," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(4), pages 651-659, September.
    8. Salop, S & Stiglitz, J E, 1982. "The Theory of Sales: A Simple Model of Equilibrium Price Dispersion with Identical Agents," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 1121-1130, December.
    9. John W. Pratt & David A. Wise & Richard Zeckhauser, 1979. "Price Differences in almost Competitive Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 93(2), pages 189-211.
    10. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1986. "Price and Advertising Signals of Product Quality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(4), pages 796-821, August.
    11. Steven C. Salop, 1979. "Monopolistic Competition with Outside Goods," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 141-156, Spring.
    12. Dahlby, Bev & West, Douglas S, 1986. "Price Dispersion in an Automobile Insurance Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(2), pages 418-438, April.
    13. N. Gregory Mankiw, 1998. "Teaching the Principles of Economics," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 24(4), pages 519-524, Fall.
    14. Van Hoomissen, Theresa, 1988. "Price Dispersion and Inflation: Evidence from Israel," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(6), pages 1303-1314, December.
    15. J. Yannis Bakos, 1997. "Reducing Buyer Search Costs: Implications for Electronic Marketplaces," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 43(12), pages 1676-1692, December.
    16. Birger Wernerfelt, 1988. "Umbrella Branding as a Signal of New Product Quality: An Example of Signalling by Posting a Bond," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 19(3), pages 458-466, Autumn.
    17. Alan T. Sorensen, 2000. "Equilibrium Price Dispersion in Retail Markets for Prescription Drugs," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(4), pages 833-862, August.
    18. Stahl, Dale O, II, 1989. "Oligopolistic Pricing with Sequential Consumer Search," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(4), pages 700-712, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Anania, Giovanni & Nisticò, Rosanna, 2014. "Price dispersion and seller heterogeneity in retail food markets," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 190-201.
    2. Belleflamme,Paul & Peitz,Martin, 2015. "Industrial Organization," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781107687899.
    3. ANDERSON, Simon & de PALMA, André, 2003. "Price dispersion," LIDAM Discussion Papers CORE 2003032, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    4. Joshua Sherman & Avi Weiss, 2017. "On Fruitful And Futile Tests Of The Relationship Between Search And Price Dispersion," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 55(4), pages 1898-1918, October.
    5. Jason R. Blevins & Garrett T. Senney, 2019. "Dynamic selection and distributional bounds on search costs in dynamic unit‐demand models," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 10(3), pages 891-929, July.
    6. Alfredo Martín-Oliver & Vicente Salas-Fumás & Jesús Saurina, 2005. "Interest rate dispersion in deposit and loan markets," Working Papers 0506, Banco de España.
    7. Cason, Timothy N. & Friedman, Daniel, 2003. "Buyer search and price dispersion: a laboratory study," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 112(2), pages 232-260, October.
    8. Jeffrey R. Brown & Austan Goolsbee, 2002. "Does the Internet Make Markets More Competitive? Evidence from the Life Insurance Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(3), pages 481-507, June.
    9. Alfredo Martin-Oliver & Vicente Salas-Fumas & Jesús Saurina, 2008. "Search Cost and Price Dispersion in Vertically Related Markets: The Case of Bank Loans and Deposits," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 33(4), pages 297-323, December.
    10. Jeffrey R. Brown & Austan Goolsbee, 2000. "Does the Internet Make Markets More Competitive?," NBER Working Papers 7996, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Barron, John M. & Taylor, Beck A. & Umbeck, John R., 2004. "Number of sellers, average prices, and price dispersion," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 22(8-9), pages 1041-1066, November.
    12. Haizhen Lin & Yijia Wang, 2012. "Competition and Price Discrimination in the Parking Garage Industry," Working Papers 2012-07, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
    13. Ramnath K. Chellappa & Raymond G. Sin & S. Siddarth, 2011. "Price Formats as a Source of Price Dispersion: A Study of Online and Offline Prices in the Domestic U.S. Airline Markets," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 22(1), pages 83-98, March.
    14. Bruce Carlin & Arna Olafsson & Michaela Pagel, 2017. "FinTech Adoption Across Generations: Financial Fitness in the Information Age," NBER Working Papers 23798, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. repec:smu:ecowpa:1301 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Moraga-González, José Luis & Wildenbeest, Matthijs R., 2008. "Maximum likelihood estimation of search costs," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(5), pages 820-848, July.
    17. Yuriy Gorodnichenko, 2007. "Using Firm Optimization to Evaluate and Estimate Returns to Scale," NBER Working Papers 13666, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Cerqueiro, Geraldo & Degryse, Hans & Ongena, Steven, 2011. "Rules versus discretion in loan rate setting," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 503-529, October.
    19. Cason, Timothy N. & Datta, Shakun, 2006. "An experimental study of price dispersion in an optimal search model with advertising," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 639-665, May.
    20. Sergey MALAKHOV, 2016. "Law of One Price and Optimal Consumption-Leisure Choice Under Price Dispersion," Expert Journal of Economics, Sprint Investify, vol. 4(1), pages 1-8.
    21. Gatti, J.R.J. & Kattuman, P., 2003. "Online Price Dispersion Within and Between Seven European Countries," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0343, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:46:y:2000:i:4:p:563-585. 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: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/inforea.html .

    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 CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc 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 RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Matthew Walls (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/inforea.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.