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Search, Design and Market Structure

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The Internet has made consumer search much easier with consequences for competition, industry structure and product offerings. We explore these consequences in a rich but tractable model that allows for strategic design choices. We find a polarized market structure, where some firms choose designs aiming for broad-based audiences, while others target narrow niches. Such an industry structure can arise even when all firms and consumers are ex-ante identical. We perform comparative statics and show the effect of a fall in search costs on the designs, market shares, prices, and profits of different firms. In particular, a fall in search costs, through the effect on product designs, can lead to higher industry prices and profits. In characterizing sales distributions, our analysis is related to discussions of how the Internet has led to the prevalence of niche goods and the long tail and superstar phenomena.

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  • Heski Bar-Isaac & Guillermo Caruana & Vicente Cuñat, 2009. "Search, Design and Market Structure," Working Papers 09-17, NET Institute, revised Sep 2009.
  • Handle: RePEc:net:wpaper:0917
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    1. Dmitri Kuksov, 2004. "Buyer Search Costs and Endogenous Product Design," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 23(4), pages 490-499, May.
    2. 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.
    3. Gérard P. Cachon & Christian Terwiesch & Yi Xu, 2008. "On the Effects of Consumer Search and Firm Entry in a Multiproduct Competitive Market," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 27(3), pages 461-473, 05-06.
    4. Nathan Larson, 2013. "Niche products, generic products, and consumer search," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 52(2), pages 793-832, March.
    5. Tucker, Catherine & Zhang, Juanjuan, 2007. "Long Tail or Steep Tail? A Field Investigation into How Online Popularity Information Affects the Distribution of Customer Choices," Working papers 39811, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
    6. Simon P. Anderson & Régis Renault, 2009. "Comparative advertising: disclosing horizontal match information," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 40(3), pages 558-581.
    7. Asher Wolinsky, 1986. "True Monopolistic Competition as a Result of Imperfect Information," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 101(3), pages 493-511.
    8. J. Yannis Bakos, 1997. "Reducing Buyer Search Costs: Implications for Electronic Marketplaces," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 43(12), pages 1676-1692, December.
    9. Catherine Tucker & Juanjuan Zhang, 2011. "How Does Popularity Information Affect Choices? A Field Experiment," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 57(5), pages 828-842, May.
    10. Simon P. Anderson & Regis Renault, 1999. "Pricing, Product Diversity, and Search Costs: A Bertrand-Chamberlin-Diamond Model," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 30(4), pages 719-735, Winter.
    11. repec:dau:papers:123456789/12478 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Lewis, Tracy R & Sappington, David E M, 1994. "Supplying Information to Facilitate Price Discrimination," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 35(2), pages 309-327, May.
    13. Heski Bar-Isaac & Guillermo Caruana & Vicente Cuñat, 2010. "Information Gathering and Marketing," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 19(2), pages 375-401, June.
    14. Heski Bar-Isaac & Guillermo Caruana & Vicente Cunat, 2007. "Information Gathering Externalities in Product Markets," Working Papers 07-18, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms
    • L86 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Information and Internet Services; Computer Software

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