IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/10570.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Search, Obfuscation, and Price Elasticities on the Internet

Author

Listed:
  • Glenn Ellison
  • Sara Fisher Ellison

Abstract

We examine the competition between a group of Internet retailers that operate in an environment where a price search engine plays a dominant role. We show that for some products in this environment, the easy price search makes demand tremendously price-sensitive. Retailers, though, engage in obfuscation---practices that frustrate consumer search or make it less damaging to firms---resulting in much less price sensitivity on other products. We discuss several models of obfuscation and examine its effects on demand and markups empirically. Observed markups are adequate to allow efficient online retailers to survive.

Suggested Citation

  • Glenn Ellison & Sara Fisher Ellison, 2004. "Search, Obfuscation, and Price Elasticities on the Internet," NBER Working Papers 10570, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10570
    Note: IO
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w10570.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Karen Clay & Ramayya Krishnan & Eric Wolff, 2001. "Prices and Price Dispersion on the Web: Evidence from the Online Book Industry," NBER Chapters, in: E-commerce, pages 521-539, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Glenn Ellison, 2005. "A Model of Add-On Pricing," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(2), pages 585-637.
    3. Varian, Hal R, 1980. "A Model of Sales," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(4), pages 651-659, September.
    4. Austan Goolsbee & Judith Chevalier, 2002. "Measuring Prices and Price Competition Online: Amazon and Barnes and Noble," NBER Working Papers 9085, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Michael D. Smith & Erik Brynjolfsson, 2001. "Consumer Decision-making at an Internet Shopbot: Brand Still Matters," NBER Chapters, in: E-commerce, pages 541-558, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Jeffrey R. Brown & Austan Goolsbee, 2002. "Does the Internet Make Markets More Competitive? Evidence from the Life Insurance Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(3), pages 481-507, June.
    7. Burdett, Kenneth & Judd, Kenneth L, 1983. "Equilibrium Price Dispersion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(4), pages 955-969, July.
    8. Fiona Scott Morton & Florian Zettelmeyer & Jorge Silva‐Risso, 2001. "Internet Car Retailing," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(4), pages 501-519, December.
    9. Michael R. Baye & John Morgan & Patrick Scholten, 2004. "Price Dispersion In The Small And In The Large: Evidence From An Internet Price Comparison Site," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(4), pages 463-496, December.
    10. Michael D. Smith & Erik Brynjolfsson, 2001. "Consumer Decision-making at an Internet Shopbot: Brand Still Matters," NBER Chapters, in: E-commerce, pages 541-558, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Diamond, Peter A., 1971. "A model of price adjustment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 156-168, June.
    12. Maarten C.W. Janssen & Jose Luis Moraga, 2000. "Pricing, Consumer Search and the Size of Internet Markets," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 00-042/1, Tinbergen Institute.
    13. Fiona Scott Morton & Florian Zettelmeyer & Jorge Silva-Risso, 2001. "Internet Car Retailing," NBER Chapters, in: E-commerce, pages 501-519, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Morton, Fiona Scott & Zettelmeyer, Florian & Silva-Risso, Jorge, 2001. "Internet Car Retailing," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(4), pages 501-519, December.
    15. Karen Clay & Ramayya Krishnan & Eric Wolff, 2001. "Prices and Price Dispersion on the Web: Evidence from the Online Book Industry," NBER Chapters, in: E-commerce, pages 521-539, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Raymond J. Deneckere & R. Preston McAfee, 1996. "Damaged Goods," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 5(2), pages 149-174, June.
    17. Judith A. Chevalier & Anil K. Kashyap & Peter E. Rossi, 2003. "Why Don't Prices Rise During Periods of Peak Demand? Evidence from Scanner Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 15-37, March.
    18. Michael R. Baye & John Morgan, 2001. "Information Gatekeepers on the Internet and the Competitiveness of Homogeneous Product Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 454-474, June.
    19. Baye, Michael R. & Morgan, John, 2002. "Information gatekeepers and price discrimination on the internet," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 47-51, June.
    20. David Laibson & Xavier Gabaix, 2004. "Competition and Consumer Confusion," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 663, Econometric Society.
    21. Duncan Simester, 1995. "Signalling Price Image Using Advertised Prices," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 14(2), pages 166-188.
    22. Stahl, Dale O, II, 1989. "Oligopolistic Pricing with Sequential Consumer Search," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(4), pages 700-712, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Glenn Ellison & Sara Fisher Ellison, 2005. "Lessons About Markets from the Internet," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(2), pages 139-158, Spring.
    2. Michael R. Baye & John Morgan, 2009. "Brand and Price Advertising in Online Markets," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 55(7), pages 1139-1151, July.
    3. Michael R. Baye & John Morgan, 2005. "Probabilistic Patents," Microeconomics 0504004, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Backus, Matthew R. & Podwol, Joseph Uri & Schneider, Henry S., 2014. "Search costs and equilibrium price dispersion in auction markets," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 71(C), pages 173-192.
    5. Lindgren, Charlie & Daunfeldt, Sven-Olov & Rudholm, Niklas, 2021. "Pricing In Retail Markets With Low Search Costs: Evidence From A Price Comparison Website," HFI Working Papers 18, Institute of Retail Economics (Handelns Forskningsinstitut).
    6. Jeffrey R. Brown & Austan Goolsbee, 2002. "Does the Internet Make Markets More Competitive? Evidence from the Life Insurance Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(3), pages 481-507, June.
    7. Maris Goldmanis & Ali Hortaçsu & Chad Syverson & Önsel Emre, 2010. "E-Commerce and the Market Structure of Retail Industries," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(545), pages 651-682, June.
    8. Donna, Javier D. & Schenone, Pablo & Veramendi, Gregory F., 2020. "Networks, frictions, and price dispersion," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 406-431.
    9. Zhuang, Hejun & Popkowski Leszczyc, Peter T.L. & Lin, Yuanfang, 2018. "Why is Price Dispersion Higher Online than Offline? The Impact of Retailer Type and Shopping Risk on Price Dispersion," Journal of Retailing, Elsevier, vol. 94(2), pages 136-153.
    10. Judith Chevalier & Austan Goolsbee, 2003. "Measuring Prices and Price Competition Online: Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com," Quantitative Marketing and Economics (QME), Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 203-222, June.
    11. Belleflamme,Paul & Peitz,Martin, 2015. "Industrial Organization," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781107687899, July.
    12. Gatti, J.R.J. & Kattuman, P., 2003. "Online Price Dispersion Within and Between Seven European Countries," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0343, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    13. Bachis, Enrico & Piga, Claudio A., 2011. "Low-cost airlines and online price dispersion," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 655-667.
    14. Thomas A. Weber & Zhiqiang (Eric) Zheng, 2007. "A Model of Search Intermediaries and Paid Referrals," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 18(4), pages 414-436, December.
    15. Anindya Ghose & Yuliang Yao, 2011. "Using Transaction Prices to Re-Examine Price Dispersion in Electronic Markets," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 22(2), pages 269-288, June.
    16. Jifeng Luo & Han Zhang & Haizheng Li, 2018. "Pricing strategies in online book industry: a comparative study," Information Systems and e-Business Management, Springer, vol. 16(4), pages 791-816, November.
    17. Arnold Michael A. & Pénard Thierry, 2007. "Bargaining and Fixed Price Offers: How Online Intermediaries are Changing New Car Transactions," Review of Network Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 6(2), pages 1-27, June.
    18. Maarten C.W. Janssen & Jose Luis Moraga-Gonzalez & Matthijs R. Wildenbeest, 2004. "Consumer Search and Oligopolistic Pricing: An Empirical Investigation," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 04-071/1, Tinbergen Institute.
    19. Richards, Timothy J. & Hamilton, Stephen F. & Allender, William, 2016. "Search and price dispersion in online grocery markets," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 255-281.
    20. Carlin, Bruce I., 2009. "Strategic price complexity in retail financial markets," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(3), pages 278-287, March.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L8 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services
    • D4 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10570. 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: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    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 CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc 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 RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.