Coordination and Lock-In: Competition with Switching Costs and Network Effects
Switching costs and network effects bind customers to vendors if products are incompatible, locking customers or even markets in to early choices. Lock-in hinders customers from changing suppliers in response to (predictable or unpredictable) changes in efficiency, and gives vendors lucrative ex post market power - over the same buyer in the case of switching costs (or brand loyalty), or over others with network effects. Firms compete ex ante for this ex post power, using penetration pricing, introductory offers, and price wars. Such 'competition for the market' or 'life-cycle competition' can adequately replace ordinary compatible competition, and can even be fiercer than compatible competition by weakening differentiation. More often, however, incompatible competition not only involves direct efficiency losses but also softens competition and magnifies incumbency advantages. With network effects, established firms have little incentive to offer better deals when buyers’ and complementors’ expectations hinge on non-efficiency factors (especially history such as past market shares), and although competition between incompatible networks is initially unstable and sensitive to competitive offers and random events, it later 'tips' to monopoly, after which entry is hard, often even too hard given incompatibility. And while switching costs can encourage small-scale entry, they discourage sellers from raiding one another’s existing customers, and so also discourage more aggressive entry. Because of these competitive effects, even inefficient incompatible competition is often more profitable than compatible competition, especially for dominant firms with installed-base or expectational advantages. Thus firms probably seek incompatibility too often. We therefore favour thoughtfully pro-compatibility public policy.
If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
|Date of creation:||Aug 2006|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: |
Phone: 44 - 20 - 7183 8801
Fax: 44 - 20 - 7183 8820
|Order Information:|| Email: |
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5798. 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: ()The email address of this maintainer does not seem to be valid anymore. Please ask to update the entry or send us the correct address
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.