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Consumer Search Costs and Preferences on the Internet

Listed author(s):
  • Grégory Jolivet

    ()

  • Hélène Turon

    ()

We analyse consumers’ search and purchase decisions on an Internet platform. Using a rich dataset on all adverts posted and transactions made on a major French Internet platform (PriceMinister), we show evidence of substantial price dispersion among adverts for the same product. We also show that consumers do not necessarily choose the cheapest advert available and sometimes even choose an advert that is dominated in price and non-price characteristics (such as seller’s reputation) by another available advert. To explain the transactions observed on the platform, we derive and estimate a structural model of sequential directed search where consumers observe all advert prices but have to pay a search cost to see the other advert characteristics. We allow for flexible heterogeneity in consumers’ preferences and search costs. After deriving tractable identification conditions for our model, we estimate sets of parameters that can rationalize each transaction. Our model can predict a wide range of consumer search strategies and fits almost all transactions observed in our sample. We find empirical evidence of heterogenous, sometimes positive and substantially large search costs and marginal willingness to pay for advert hedonic characteristics.

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File URL: http://www.efm.bris.ac.uk/economics/working_papers/pdffiles/dp14647.pdf
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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK in its series Bristol Economics Discussion Papers with number 14/647.

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Length: 38 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2014
Handle: RePEc:bri:uobdis:14/647
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  1. Sam Cosaert & Thomas Demuynck, 2015. "Revealed preference theory for finite choice sets," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 59(1), pages 169-200, May.
  2. Ali Hortaçsu & Chad Syverson, 2004. "Product Differentiation, Search Costs, and Competition in the Mutual Fund Industry: A Case Study of S&P 500 Index Funds," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(2), pages 403-456.
  3. Laurens Cherchye & Ian Crawford & Bram De Rock & Frederic Vermeulen, 2009. "The revealed preference approach to demand," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/132522, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  4. Han Hong & Matthew Shum, 2006. "Using price distributions to estimate search costs," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 37(2), pages 257-275, June.
  5. Babur De Los Santos & Ali Hortacsu & Matthijs R. Wildenbeest, 2012. "Testing Models of Consumer Search Using Data on Web Browsing and Purchasing Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(6), pages 2955-2980, October.
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