Dynamic Pricing with Demand Learning and Reference Effects
Management Science, forthcoming
76 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2017 Last revised: 16 Sep 2021
Date Written: April 19, 2021
We consider a seller's dynamic pricing problem with demand learning and reference effects. We first study the case where customers are loss-averse: they have a reference price that can vary over time, and the demand reduction when the selling price exceeds the reference price dominates the demand increase when the selling price falls behind the reference price by the same amount. Thus, the expected demand as a function of price has a time-varying "kink" and is not differentiable everywhere. The seller neither knows the underlying demand function nor observes the time-varying reference prices. In this setting, we design and analyze a policy that (i) changes the selling price very slowly to control the evolution of the reference price, and (ii) gradually accumulates sales data to balance the tradeoff between learning and earning. We prove that under a variety of reference-price updating mechanisms, our policy is asymptotically optimal; i.e., its T-period revenue loss relative to a clairvoyant who knows the demand function and the reference-price updating mechanism grows at the smallest possible rate in T. We also extend our analysis to the case of a fixed reference price, and show how reference effects increase the complexity of dynamic pricing with demand learning in this case. Moreover, we study the case where customers are gain-seeking and design asymptotically optimal policies for this case. Finally, we design and analyze an asymptotically optimal statistical test for detecting whether customers are loss-averse or gain-seeking.
Keywords: reference-price effect, dynamic pricing, sequential estimation, learning and earning
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