Pros vs Joes: Agent Pricing Behavior in the Sharing Economy
35 Pages Posted: 26 Dec 2015 Last revised: 9 Sep 2016
Date Written: August 28, 2016
One of the major differences between markets that follow a “sharing economy” paradigm and traditional two-sided markets is that the supply side in the sharing economy often includes individual nonprofessional decision makers, in addition to firms and professional agents. Using a data set of prices and availability of listings on Airbnb, we find that there exist substantial differences in the operational and financial performance of professional and nonprofessional hosts. In particular, properties managed by professional hosts earn 16.9% more in daily revenue, have 15.5% higher occupancy rates, and are 13.6% less likely to exit the market compared with properties owned by nonprofessional hosts, while controlling for property and market characteristics. We demonstrate that these performance differences between professionals and nonprofessionals can be partly explained by pricing inefficiencies. Specifically, we provide empirical evidence that nonprofessional hosts are less likely to offer different rates across stay dates based on the underlying demand patterns, such as those created by major holidays and conventions. We develop a parsimonious model to analyze the implications of having two such different host groups for a profit-maximizing platform operator and for a social planner. While a profit-maximizing platform operator should charge lower prices to nonprofessional hosts, a social planner would charge the same prices to professionals and nonprofessionals.
Keywords: Two-sided market, sharing economy, behavioral economics, revenue management, hospitality
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