A Model of Product Design and Information Disclosure Investments
As online information availability for products and services is increasing and as buyers engage in more online search prior to purchase decisions, it is becoming more important for firms to know when to invest to reduce buyer uncertainty. This article argues that today's firms should view product design and investments to reduce buyer uncertainty as an integrated process, which is in turn heavily influenced by how much information buyers can obtain independently, for example, by reading other buyers' reviews or by accessing third party infomediaries. Using a game-theoretic model of a competitive market, we explain how product quality decisions influence future investments to reduce buyer uncertainty, and demonstrate how firms should take this dependency into account to avoid over-investing in quality. We also show that firms, and especially lower quality firms, can free ride on the product information already available in the market, and reduce their own disclosure investments. Finally we show that firms can take further advantage of such ambient information availability to ease the intensity of competition among them, and specifically to reduce their product quality investments.
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