Red Queen Pricing Effects in E-Retail Markets

30 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2005

See all articles by Michael R. Baye

Michael R. Baye

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Business Economics & Public Policy

John Morgan

University of California, Berkeley - Economic Analysis & Policy Group

Date Written: October 2003

Abstract

A standard "solution" offered to the deleterious effects of all-out price competition is for firms to engage in differentiation strategies. This solution, however, depends critically on the inability of rivals to imitate a successful differentiation strategy. With imitation, we show how "Red Queen" pricing effects can arise: All firms have an incentive to vertically differentiate and increase markups, yet imitation by rivals drives prices down toward pre-differentiation levels. Thus, the price premia arising from differentiation strategies in e-retailing critically depend on the number of other firms that imitate the strategies. Based on data from Shopper.com, we find that an online firm that unilaterally differentiates itself from its rivals by participating in CNet's Certified Merchant program enjoys a 5 to 17 percent price premium. However, when other firms also follow this strategy, the price premium vanishes.

Keywords: Pricing, product differentiation, red queen effect, internet, reputation

JEL Classification: D4, D8, M3, L13

Suggested Citation

Baye, Michael Roy and Morgan, John, Red Queen Pricing Effects in E-Retail Markets (October 2003). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=655448 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.655448

Michael Roy Baye

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Business Economics & Public Policy ( email )

Bloomington, IN 47405
United States
812-855-2779 (Phone)
812-855-3354 (Fax)

John Morgan (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Economic Analysis & Policy Group ( email )

Berkeley, CA 94720
United States
510-642-2669 (Phone)
810-885-5959 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://faculty.haas.berkeley.edu/rjmorgan/

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