Competition when Consumers Have Switching Costs: An Overview
This paper surveys recent work on competition in markets in which consumers face costs to switching between competing firms' products, even when all firms' products are functionally identical. I address issues in macroeconomics, international trade and industrial organization: In a market with switching costs (or `brand loyalty'), a firm's current market share is an important determinant of its future profitability. I examine how the firm's choice between setting a low price to capture market share, and setting a high price to harvest profits by exploiting its current locked-in customers, is affected by the threat of new entry, interest rates, exchange rate expectations, the state of the business cycle, etc. I also discuss the causes of switching costs, explain introductory offers and price wars, and examine industry profits, firms' product choices, and implications for multi-product competition.
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