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The different effect of consumer learning on incentives to differentiate in Cournot and Bertrand competition

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  • Conze, Maximilian
  • Kramm, Michael

Abstract

We combine two extensions of the differentiated duopoly model of Dixit (1979), namely Caminal and Vives (1996) and Brander and Spencer (2015a,b), to analyze the effect of consumer learning on firms' incentives to differentiate their products in models of Cournot and Bertrand competition. Products are of different quality, consumers buy sequentially and are imperfectly informed about the quality of the goods. Before simultaneously competing in quantities, firms simultaneously choose their investment into differentiation. Late consumers can observe earlier consumers' decisions and extract information about the quality of the goods. This influences the firms' incentives to differentiate. If firms compete in quantities, they are more likely to invest in differentiation with consumer learning than without. This is in line with implications of the recommendation effect introduced in Conze and Kramm (2016) in a model of spatial differentiation. We also examine the case in which firms compete in prices. Here, the effect of consumer learning is reversed, so that differentiation is less likely with consumer learning. Thus, we find an information-based difference between Cournot and Bertrand competition: in the Bertrand setting consumer learning increases the competition, i.e. products are more likely to be substitutes, and it weakens it in the Cournot model.

Suggested Citation

  • Conze, Maximilian & Kramm, Michael, 2017. "The different effect of consumer learning on incentives to differentiate in Cournot and Bertrand competition," Ruhr Economic Papers 666, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:rwirep:666
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Anne-Katrin Roesler & Balázs Szentes, 2017. "Buyer-Optimal Learning and Monopoly Pricing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(7), pages 2072-2080, July.
    2. Brander, James A. & Spencer, Barbara J., 2015. "Intra-industry trade with Bertrand and Cournot oligopoly: The role of endogenous horizontal product differentiation," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 157-165.
    3. Belleflamme,Paul & Peitz,Martin, 2010. "Industrial Organization," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521681599, November.
    4. Hviid, Morten, 1991. "Capacity constrained duopolies, uncertain demand and non-existence of pure strategy equilibria," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 183-190, July.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    principle of minimum differentiation; consumer learning; Bayesian observational learning;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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