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Referrals in Search Markets

  • Maria Arbatskaya

    (Emory University)

  • Hideo Konishi

    ()

    (Boston College)

This paper compares the equilibrium outcomes in search markets with and without referrals. Although it seems clear that consumers would benefit from referrals, it is not at all clear whether firms would unilaterally provide information about competing offers since such information could encourage consumers to purchase the product elsewhere. In a model of a horizontally differentiated product market with sequential consumer search, we show that valuable referrals can arise in the equilibrium: a firm will give referrals to consumers whose ideal product is suffciently far from the firms offering. We allow firms to price-discriminate among consumers, and consumers to misrepresent their tastes. It is found that the equilibrium profits tend to be higher in markets with referrals than in the ones without. Consumers tend to be better o¤ in the presence of referrals when search costs are not too low, and under a certain parameter range, referrals lead to a Pareto improvement.

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Paper provided by Boston College Department of Economics in its series Boston College Working Papers in Economics with number 614.

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Date of creation: 27 Jul 2005
Date of revision: 10 May 2011
Publication status: forthcoming, International Journal of Industrial Organization
Handle: RePEc:boc:bocoec:614
Contact details of provider: Postal: Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill MA 02467 USA
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Web page: http://fmwww.bc.edu/EC/
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  1. Wolinsky, Asher, 1986. "True Monopolistic Competition as a Result of Imperfect Information," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(3), pages 493-511, August.
  2. Stephen J. Spurr, 1990. "The Impact of Advertising and Other Factors on Referral Practices, with Special Reference to Lawyers," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(2), pages 235-246, Summer.
  3. Hideo Konishi, 1999. "Concentration of Competing Retail Stores," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 447, Boston College Department of Economics.
  4. Birger Wernerfelt, 1994. "Selling Formats for Search Goods," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 13(3), pages 298-309.
  5. Asher Wolinsky, 1983. "Retail Trade Concentration Due to Consumers' Imperfect Information," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 14(1), pages 275-282, Spring.
  6. Stiglitz, J E, 1979. "Equilibrium in Product Markets with Imperfect Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(2), pages 339-45, May.
  7. Wolinsky, Asher, 1984. "Product Differentiation with Imperfect Information," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(1), pages 53-61, January.
  8. Mark V. Pauly, 1979. "The Ethics and Economics of Kickbacks and Fee Splitting," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 344-352, Spring.
  9. Simon P. Anderson & Regis Renault, 1997. "Consumer Information and Firm Pricing: Negative Externalities from Improved Information," Virginia Economics Online Papers 338, University of Virginia, Department of Economics.
  10. Colwell, Peter F & Kahn, Charles M, 2001. "The Economic Functions of Referrals and Referral Fees," The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 23(3), pages 267-96, November.
  11. Diamond, Peter A., 1971. "A model of price adjustment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 156-168, June.
  12. Janssen, Maarten C.W. & Moraga-Gonzalez, Jose Luis & Wildenbeest, Matthijs R., 2005. "Truly costly sequential search and oligopolistic pricing," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 23(5-6), pages 451-466, June.
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