IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Referrals in Search Markets

  • Maria Arbatskaya
  • Hideo Konishi

This paper compares equilibrium outcomes in search markets with and without referrals. Although consumers would benefit from honest referrals, it is not at all clear whether firms would unilaterally provide information about competing offers since such information could encourage a consumer to purchase the product elsewhere. In a model of a horizontally differentiated product and sequential consumer search, we show that valuable referrals can arise as a part of equilibrium: firm will give referrals to consumers whose ideal product is sufficiently far from the firm;s offering. The effect of referrals on the equilibrium prices is examined, and it is found that prices are higher in markets with referrals. Although consumers can be made worse off by the existence of referrals, referrals lead to a Pareto improvement as long as search cost is not too low relative to product heterogeneity. The effects of referral fees and third-party referrals are examined and policy implications are drawn.

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.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Department of Economics, Emory University (Atlanta) in its series Emory Economics with number 0521.

in new window

Date of creation: Jul 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:emo:wp2003:0521
Contact details of provider: Web page:

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.:

as in new window
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Hideo Konishi, 1999. "Concentration of Competing Retail Stores," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 447, Boston College Department of Economics.
  4. Anderson, Simon P & Renault, Regis, 2000. "Consumer Information and Firm Pricing: Negative Externalities from Improved Information," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 41(3), pages 721-42, August.
  5. Stiglitz, J E, 1979. "Equilibrium in Product Markets with Imperfect Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(2), pages 339-45, May.
  6. Birger Wernerfelt, 1994. "Selling Formats for Search Goods," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 13(3), pages 298-309.
  7. 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.
  8. Diamond, Peter A., 1971. "A model of price adjustment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 156-168, June.
  9. Wolinsky, Asher, 1984. "Product Differentiation with Imperfect Information," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(1), pages 53-61, January.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:emo:wp2003:0521. 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: (Sue Mialon)

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.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.