Pricing for the Stars
32 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2019 Last revised: 17 Aug 2019
Date Written: August 17, 2019
We consider dynamic price-setting in the presence of rating systems and asymmetric information about product quality. A long-lived monopolist sells a product of privately known and fixed quality to a sequence of short-lived consumers. In each period, the price charged determines the taste characteristics of purchasing consumers who leave reviews after purchase. Individual reviews are aggregated into ratings observable to future consumers. The price has two effects on future ratings: (i) a direct price effect on reviews, and (ii) an indirect selection effect by determining the tastes of reviewing consumers. Inference is conducted by looking for the inferred quality and cutoff taste such that purchase decisions are individually rational and the current aggregate rating is matched. We show that rating systems are effective as consumers correctly infer the quality of the product in the long run. However, the design of the rating system affects long-run prices, profits and consumer surplus. If the direct price effect dominates the selection effect, consumers benefit from a rating system which is more sensitive to newly arriving reviews. In contrast, they prefer a more persistent system if the selection effect dominates. Firms are unambiguously better off the more sensitive the rating system.
Keywords: Rating Systems, Dynamic Pricing, Asymmetric Information
JEL Classification: D21, D82, L15
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