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Does Information Undermine Brand? Information Intermediary Use and Preference for Branded Web Retailers

  • Joel Waldfogel
  • Lu Chen

Investments in brand provide one method for vendors to become known and convince potential customers that vendors will deliver as promised. Alternatively, third-party information on retailers' existence, as well as whether they tend to keep their commitments can serve a similar function and may undermine investments in brand. This study uses a 13-month panel dataset on 1998-99 Internet shopping behavior and use of information intermediaries by over 30,000 households to examine whether information use undermines brand. We find that individuals who take up using price comparison sites reduce their shopping at a broad group of branded retailers by about a tenth. Users of pure price comparison sites, such as DealTime and mySimon, also reduce their Amazon by about a tenth, while individuals using BizRate, which provides both price comparison and vendor reliability information, reduce their Amazon shopping by a fifth. The results have possible implications for both firm strategy and the evolution of market structure. If information weakens the pull of brand, then Internet retailing may grow less concentrated over time.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9942.

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Date of creation: Sep 2003
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Publication status: published as Waldfogel, Joel and Lu Chen. “Does Information Undermine Brand? Information Intermediary Use and Preference for Branded Web Retailers.” Journal of Industrial Economics (December 2006).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9942
Note: IO LE
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  1. Jeffrey Milyo & Joel Waldfogel, 1998. "The Effect of Price Advertising on Prices: Evidence in the Wake of 44 Liquormart," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 9807, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  2. Baltagi, Badi H. & Wu, Ping X., 1999. "Unequally Spaced Panel Data Regressions With Ar(1) Disturbances," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(06), pages 814-823, December.
  3. Glenn Ellison & Sara Fisher Ellison, 2009. "Search, Obfuscation, and Price Elasticities on the Internet," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(2), pages 427-452, 03.
  4. 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.
  5. Smith, Michael D & Brynjolfsson, Erik, 2001. "Consumer Decision-Making at an Internet Shopbot: Brand Still Matters," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(4), pages 541-58, December.
  6. George J. Stigler, 1961. "The Economics of Information," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 69, pages 213.
  7. Kwoka, John E, Jr, 1984. "Advertising and the Price and Quality of Optometric Services," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(1), pages 211-16, March.
  8. Michael Smith & Erik Brynjolfsson, 1999. "Frictionless Commerce? A Comparison of Internet and Conventional Retailers," Computing in Economics and Finance 1999 1022, Society for Computational Economics.
  9. Austan Goolsbee & Judith Chevalier, 2002. "Measuring Prices and Price Competition Online: Amazon and Barnes and Noble," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm290, Yale School of Management, revised 12 Sep 2008.
  10. 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 351-67, September.
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