E-Sourcing in Procurement: Theory and Behavior in Reverse Auctions with Non-Competitive Contracts
31 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2005
Date Written: October 22, 2004
One of the goals of procurement is to establish a fair price while affording the buyer some flexibility in selecting the suppliers to deal with. Reverse auctions do not have this flexibility, because it is the auction rules and not the buyer that determine the winner. But an important advantage of having this flexibility is that it allows buyers and suppliers to establish long-term relationships. This is one of the reasons that buyers often combine non-competitive purchasing with auctions. We find that in theory such hybrid mechanisms that remove some suppliers and a corresponding amount of demand from the auction market increase competition and make buyers better off as long as suppliers are willing to accept non-competitive contracts. And it turns out that suppliers often do because under a wide variety of conditions these contracts have a positive expected profit. Our theory relies on two behavioral assumptions: (1) bidders in a multi-unit uniform-price reverse auction will follow the dominant strategy of bidding truthfully, and (2) the suppliers who have been removed from the market will accept non-competitive contracts that have a positive expected profit. Our experiment demonstrates that bidders in the auction behave very close to following the dominant strategy regardless of whether this auction is a stand-alone or a part of a hybrid mechanism. We also find that suppliers accept non-competitive contracts sufficiently often (although not always) to make the hybrid mechanism outperform the reverse auction in the laboratory as well as in theory.
Keywords: Multi-unit auctions, experimental economics, strategic procurement
JEL Classification: C72, D83, D44, C91
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation