Signaling Through Price and Quality to Consumers with Fairness Concerns
Guo X, Jiang B (2016) Signaling through price and quality to consumers with fairness concerns. Journal of Marketing Research (Forthcoming)
67 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2015 Last revised: 16 Sep 2016
Date Written: February 29, 2016
Consumers with inequity aversion experience some psychological disutility when buying products at unfair prices. Empirical evidence and behavioral research suggest that consumers may perceive a firm’s price as unfair when its profit margin is too high relative to consumers’ surplus. We develop a game-theoretic model to investigate the effects of the consumer’s inequity aversion on a firm’s optimal pricing and quality decisions. We highlight several interesting findings. First, because of the consumer’s uncertainty about the firm’s cost, the firm’s optimal quality may be non-monotone with respect to the degree of the consumer’s inequity aversion. Second, stronger inequity aversion makes an inefficient firm worse off, but may benefit an efficient firm. Third, we show that stronger inequity aversion by the consumer can actually lower the consumer’s monetary payoff (economic surplus) because the firm may reduce its quality to a greater extent than it reduces its price. Lastly, as the expected cost-efficiency in the market decreases, both the expected quality and the social welfare may increase rather than decrease.
Keywords: behavioral economics, fairness, inequity aversion, asymmetric information, signaling, quality, pricing, search goods, marketing
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