Red Queen Pricing Effects in E-Retail Markets
30 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2005
Date Written: October 2003
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: Suggested Citation