Effects of Cost-Information Transparency on Intertemporal Price Discrimination
Production and Operations Management, Forthcoming
47 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2016 Last revised: 24 Aug 2020
Date Written: August 21, 2020
A firm’s product-cost information is increasingly transparent to consumers as the firm itself or third parties publish such information, which reduces consumers’ uncertainty for the product’s cost. Using a dynamic model of firm pricing with forward-looking consumer choices, this paper assesses how cost transparency affects the firm’s intertemporal price discrimination and profit, as well as the consumers’ strategic waiting decisions and surplus. Ceteris paribus, if consumers believe a durable product has a lower cost, they will expect a larger future price drop and tend to delay purchases, impeding the firm’s ability to engage in intertemporal price discrimination. Without cost transparency, consumers may infer products with higher prices to have higher costs, giving a low-cost firm incentive to mimic a high-cost firm’s high price to encourage consumers to buy early. In contrast, a high-cost firm may choose to distort its price to avoid a low-cost firm’s price mimicry. Cost transparency reveals the product’s true cost to consumers, limiting the low-cost firm’s ability to mimic prices. Thus, cost transparency will benefit (harm) a firm with a high (low) cost. In equilibrium, cost transparency will increase the firm’s sales volume and induce more consumers to buy the product earlier instead of later, attenuating strategic waiting by consumers. We also find that cost transparency can lead to higher prices and hurt consumers if the firm has a high cost. In expectation, cost transparency leads to higher firm profits and consumer surplus, facilitating a firm’s new-product innovation.
Keywords: dynamic pricing, intertemporal price discrimination, strategic consumer, cost transparency, pricing strategy, innovation
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