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Two at the Top: Quality Differentiation in Markets with Switching Costs

  • Thomas Gehrig

    (Universität Freiburg)

  • Rune Stenbacka

    (Swedish School of Economics, Helsinki)

We explore the effects of switching costs on the subgame perfect quality decisions of oligopolists with repeated price competition. We establish a strong strategic quality premium. We show that competition for the establishment of customer relationships will eliminate low-quality firms in period 1 and that low-quality firms can survive only based on poaching profits. The equilibrium configuration is characterized by an agglomeration of two providers of top-quality as soon as switching cost heterogeneity is sufficiently significant. We demonstrate a finiteness property, according to which the two top-quality firms dominate the market with a joint market share exceeding 50 %.

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Paper provided by University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics. Centre for Industrial Economics in its series CIE Discussion Papers with number 2005-09.

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Length: 26 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:kud:kuieci:2005-09
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  1. Farrell, Joseph & Klemperer, Paul, 2006. "Coordination and Lock-In: Competition with Switching Costs and Network Effects," CEPR Discussion Papers 5798, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Andreas IRMEN & Jean-François THISSE, 1996. "Competition in Multi-Characteristics Spaces: Hotelling Was Almost Right," Cahiers de Recherches Economiques du Département d'Econométrie et d'Economie politique (DEEP) 9613, Université de Lausanne, Faculté des HEC, DEEP.
  3. Dos Santos Ferreira, Rodolphe & Thisse, Jacques-Francois, 1996. "Horizontal and vertical differentiation: The Launhardt model," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 485-506, June.
  4. Gehrig, Thomas, 1998. "Competing markets," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 277-310, February.
  5. Gehrig, Thomas, 1996. "Natural oligopoly and customer networks in intermediated markets," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 101-118.
  6. Thomas Gehrig & Rune Stenbacka, 2004. "Differentiation-Induced Switching Costs and Poaching," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(4), pages 635-655, December.
  7. Yongmin Chen, 1997. "Paying Customers to Switch," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(4), pages 877-897, December.
  8. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1999. "Customer Poaching and Brand Switching," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1871, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  9. Shaked, Avner & Sutton, John, 1982. "Relaxing Price Competition through Product Differentiation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(1), pages 3-13, January.
  10. de Palma, A, et al, 1985. "The Principle of Minimum Differentiation Holds under Sufficient Heterogeneity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(4), pages 767-81, July.
  11. Klemperer, Paul, 1995. "Competition When Consumers Have Switching Costs: An Overview with Applications to Industrial Organization, Macroeconomics, and International Trade," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(4), pages 515-39, October.
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