Pricing Information Goods: A Strategic Analysis of the Selling and Pay-Per-Use Mechanisms
University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School
INSEAD - Technology and Operations Management
University of California, San Diego (UCSD)
November 17, 2011
UNC Kenan-Flagler Research Paper No. 2013-10
We analyze two pricing mechanisms for information goods selling, where an up-front payment allows unrestricted use by the consumer, and pay per-use pricing where the payments are tailored to the consumer's usage patterns. We analytically model these pricing mechanisms in a market where consumers differ in terms of usage frequency and utility-per-use. When a monopolist employs each mechanism independently, we demonstrate that pay-per-use pricing generally yields higher profits than selling, provided the transaction cost associated with the former is not too high. We then show that pay-per-use yields higher profits than selling when usage frequency is uncertain, whereas selling yields higher profits when utility-per-use is uncertain. We then analyze a duopoly and demonstrate that, in the only non-zero pricing equilibrium, one duopolist employs selling and the other employs pay-per-use. Here, the findings from the monopoly case are reversed and selling always yields higher profits than pay-per-use. Further, we demonstrate that as the transaction cost associated with pay-per-use increases, the profits of both duopolists can increase. If an upgrade is to be offered later, we show that if consumers are myopic, the pay-per-use mechanism performs better in a monopoly, and selling performs better in a duopoly. Finally, we model the scenario where competing, vertically differentiated firms can choose endogenously between the two pricing mechanisms and demonstrate how the firms move from each offering both mechanisms when the transaction cost associated with pay-per-use is low to each offering only selling when this cost is very high.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 63
Keywords: information goods, competitive strategy, pricing mechanismsworking papers series
Date posted: November 17, 2011 ; Last revised: March 10, 2013
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