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Exploding Offers and Buy-Now Discounts

  • Mark Armstrong
  • Jidong Zhou

We consider a market with sequential consumer search in which firms can distinguish potential customers visiting for the first time from returning visitors. We show that firms often have an incentive to make it costly for its visitors to return after investigating rivals, either by making an "exploding offer" (which permits no return once the consumer leaves) or by offering a "buy-now discount" (which makes the price paid by first-time visitors lower than that for returning visitors). Prices often increase when return costs are artificially increased in this manner, and this harms consumers and market performance. If firms cannot commit to their buy-later price the outcome depends on whether there is an intrinsic cost of returning to a firm: if the intrinsic return cost is zero, it is often an equilibrium for firms not to offer any buy-now discount; if the return cost is positive, firms are forced to make exploding offers.

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Paper provided by New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 11-18.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:ste:nystbu:11-18
Contact details of provider: Postal: New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics, 44 West 4th Street, New York, NY 10012-1126
Phone: (212) 998-0860
Fax: (212) 995-4218
Web page: http://w4.stern.nyu.edu/economics/
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  1. Mark Armstrong & Jidong Zhou, 2010. "Exploding Offers and Buy-Now Discounts," EERI Research Paper Series EERI_RP_2010_44, Economics and Econometrics Research Institute (EERI), Brussels.
  2. Mark Armstrong & John Vickers & Jidong Zhou, 2009. "Prominence and consumer search," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 40(2), pages 209-233.
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  14. Muriel Niederle & Alvin E. Roth, 2009. "Market Culture: How Rules Governing Exploding Offers Affect Market Performance," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 199-219, August.
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  17. Muriel Niederle & Alvin E. Roth, 2004. "Market Culture: How Norms Governing Exploding Offers Affect Market Performance," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000207, UCLA Department of Economics.
  18. Armstrong, Mark & Zhou, Jidong, 2010. "Conditioning prices on search behaviour," MPRA Paper 19985, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  19. Wolinsky, Asher, 1986. "True Monopolistic Competition as a Result of Imperfect Information," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(3), pages 493-511, August.
  20. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 2000. "Customer Poaching and Brand Switching," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 31(4), pages 634-657, Winter.
  21. Glenn Ellison & Alexander Wolitzky, 2009. "A Search Cost Model of Obfuscation," NBER Working Papers 15237, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  24. Coase, Ronald H, 1972. "Durability and Monopoly," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 143-49, April.
  25. Lippman, Steven A & McCall, John J, 1976. "The Economics of Job Search: A Survey," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 14(3), pages 347-68, September.
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