IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

E-commerce and the Market Structure of Retail Industries


  • Maris Goldmanis
  • Ali Hortacsu
  • Chad Syverson
  • Onsel Emre


While a fast-growing body of research has looked at how the advent and diffusion of e-commerce has affected prices, much less work has investigated e-commerce's impact on the number and type of producers operating in an industry. This paper theoretically and empirically takes up the question of which businesses most benefit and most suffer as consumers switch to purchasing products online. We specify a general industry model involving consumers with differing search costs buying products from heterogeneous-type producers. We interpret e-commerce as having reduced consumers' search costs. We show how such reductions reallocate market shares from an industry's low-type producers to its high-type businesses. We test the model using U.S. data for three industries in which e-commerce has arguably decreased consumers' search costs considerably: travel agencies, bookstores, and new auto dealers. Each industry exhibits the market share shifts predicted by the model. Interestingly, while the industries experienced similar changes, the specific mechanisms through which e-commerce induced them differed. For bookstores and auto dealers, industry-wide declines in small outlets reflected market-specific impacts, evidenced by the fact that more small-store exit occurred in local markets where consumers' use of e-commerce channels grew fastest. For travel agencies, on the other hand, the shifts reflected aggregate changes driven by airlines cutting agent commissions as consumers started buying tickets online.

Suggested Citation

  • Maris Goldmanis & Ali Hortacsu & Chad Syverson & Onsel Emre, 2008. "E-commerce and the Market Structure of Retail Industries," NBER Working Papers 14166, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14166
    Note: IO PR

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mark Bagnoli & Ted Bergstrom, 2005. "Log-concave probability and its applications," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 26(2), pages 445-469, August.
    2. Clay, Karen & Krishnan, Ramayya & Wolff, Eric, 2001. "Prices and Price Dispersion on the Web: Evidence from the Online Book Industry," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(4), pages 521-539, December.
    3. Ali Hortacsu & Chad Syverson, 2003. "Product Differentiation, Search Costs, and Competition in the Mutual Fund Industry: A Case Study of the S&P 500 Index Funds," NBER Working Papers 9728, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Dunne, Timothy & Roberts, Mark J & Samuelson, Larry, 1989. "Plant Turnover and Gross Employment Flows in the U.S. Manufacturing Sector," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(1), pages 48-71, January.
    5. Rauh, Michael T., 2007. "Nonstandard foundations of equilibrium search models," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 132(1), pages 518-529, January.
    6. J. J. McCall, 1970. "Economics of Information and Job Search," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(1), pages 113-126.
    7. Chad Syverson, 2004. "Market Structure and Productivity: A Concrete Example," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(6), pages 1181-1222, December.
    8. Erik Brynjolfsson & Michael D. Smith, 2000. "Frictionless Commerce? A Comparison of Internet and Conventional Retailers," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 46(4), pages 563-585, April.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. Clay, Karen, et al, 2002. "Retail Strategies on the Web: Price and Non-price Competition in the Online Book Industry," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(3), pages 351-367, September.
    12. Rafael Rob, 1985. "Equilibrium Price Distributions," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 52(3), pages 487-504.
    13. Rauh, Michael T., 2009. "Strategic complementarities and search market equilibrium," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 959-978, July.
    14. Diamond, Peter A., 1971. "A model of price adjustment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 156-168, June.
    15. Benabou Roland, 1993. "Search Market Equilibrium, Bilateral Heterogeneity, and Repeat Purchases," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 140-158, June.
    16. Simon Latcovich & Howard Smith, 2001. "Pricing, Sunk Costs, and Market Structure Online: Evidence from," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(2), pages 217-234, Summer.
    17. 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.
    18. 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.
    19. 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.
    20. Hopenhayn, Hugo A, 1992. "Entry, Exit, and Firm Dynamics in Long Run Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(5), pages 1127-1150, September.
    21. George J. Stigler, 1961. "The Economics of Information," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 69, pages 213-213.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Jason Allen & Robert Clark & Jean-François Houde, 2008. "Market Structure and the Diffusion of E-Commerce: Evidence from the Retail Banking Industry," Staff Working Papers 08-32, Bank of Canada.
    2. James D. Dana Jr. & Eugene Orlov Jr., 2014. "Internet Penetration and Capacity Utilization in the US Airline Industry," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(4), pages 106-137, November.
    3. repec:eee:touman:v:48:y:2015:i:c:p:329-342 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Zentner, Alejandro, 2008. "Online sales, Internet use, file sharing, and the decline of retail music specialty stores," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 288-300, September.
    5. Robert Clark & Jason Allen & Jean-Francois Houde, 2010. "Price negotiation in differentiated product markets: An analysis of the market for insured mortgages in Canada," 2010 Meeting Papers 1072, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    6. Emek Basker & Lucia Foster & Shawn Klimek, 2015. "Customer-Labor Substitution: Evidence from Gasoline Stations," Working Papers 15-45, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    7. Ethan M. J. Lieber, 2017. "Does It Pay to Know Prices in Health Care?," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 9(1), pages 154-179, February.
    8. Simon P. Anderson & André de Palma, 2009. "Information congestion," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 40(4), pages 688-709.
    9. Arthur Fishman & Nadav Levy, 2015. "Search Costs and Investment in Quality," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(4), pages 625-641, December.
    10. Ginger Zhe Jin & Marc Rysman, 2015. "Platform Pricing at Sports Card Conventions," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(4), pages 704-735, December.
    11. Andreas Lendle & Pierre-Louis Vézina, 2015. "Internet Technology and the Extensive Margin of Trade: Evidence from eBay in Emerging Economies," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 19(2), pages 375-386, May.
    12. Lendle, Andreas & Olarreaga, Marcelo & Schropp, Simon & Vezina, Pierre-Louis, 2012. "There goes gravity : how eBay reduces trade costs," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6253, The World Bank.
    13. repec:bla:jindec:v:65:y:2017:i:2:p:439-468 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Yinbo Feng & Ming Hu, 2017. "Blockbuster or Niche? Competitive Strategy under Network Effects," Working Papers 17-13, NET Institute.
    15. Pozzi, Andrea & Schivardi, Fabiano, 2015. "Entry Regulation in Retail Markets," CEPR Discussion Papers 10836, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    16. Falk, Martin & Hagsten, Eva, 2015. "E-commerce trends and impacts across Europe," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 170(PA), pages 357-369.
    17. Mohammad Jamali & Hatra Voghouei & Nor Md Nor, 2014. "Information technology and survival of firms," Netnomics, Springer, vol. 15(2), pages 107-119, September.
    18. repec:eee:touman:v:33:y:2012:i:1:p:205-214 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Jidong Zhou & Andrew Rhodes, 2015. "A Search Theory of Retail Market Structure," 2015 Meeting Papers 409, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    20. Keller, Jonas & von der Gracht, Heiko A., 2014. "The influence of information and communication technology (ICT) on future foresight processes — Results from a Delphi survey," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 81-92.
    21. Fershtman, Chaim & Fishman, Arthur & Zhou, Jidong, 2013. "Search and Categorization," MPRA Paper 53166, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    22. repec:eee:touman:v:52:y:2016:i:c:p:327-339 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D4 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design
    • L1 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance
    • L8 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    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:14166. 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: .

    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 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.

    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.