Learning Match Quality
18 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2016
Date Written: April 17, 2016
A consumer with unit demand sequentially visits sellers of competing products for which her private values are uncertain. She can learn each value at a cost or purchase any of the products without learning. Each seller optimally sets either a "regular" price which induces a visiting consumer to learn or a sufficiently low "preemption" price which induces the consumer to accept immediately. In contrast to the common intuition about search frictions, we find that higher learning costs can improve consumer welfare by increasing sellers' incentive to preempt, which lowers prices and increases sales. We also demonstrate that the incentive to preempt is lower in a monopoly than in an oligopoly, and in a uniform example show that welfare and consumer surplus are higher in a monopoly for a range of learning costs.
Keywords: Demand Rotation, Search, Learning, Differentiated Products
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