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Optimal Consumer Network Structure Formation under Network Effects: Seeds Controllability and Visibility

Authors: Dou, Yifan
Niculescu, Marius
Wu, D. J.
Keywords: network effects; software; seeding; adoption sequencing; price discrimination
Issue Date: 20-Dec-2011
Series/Report no.: NET Institute Working Papers;11_07
Abstract: Understanding the process of software adoption is of paramount importance to software start-ups. We study a monopolistic seller’s optimal consumer network structure formation (seeding, segmentation, sequencing, and pricing strategies) under network effects. We demonstrate the importance of adoption sequencing as well as controllability over the seeding process to seller’s profit, consumer surplus, and social welfare. Under multi-pricing, full information, and full control over the seeding process, with both multiplicative and additive forms of network effects, we show that all segments contain only paying customers except the first one, which contains both seeded and paying customers; and segments are opened in order of the customer valuation. Further, the seller’s optimal strategy is socially optimal. Under single-pricing and limited seeding control, worst case seeding (where all seeds go to the high-valuation customers) leads to higher social welfare and consumer surplus than uniform seeding, as the former covers a larger portion of the market while charging a lower price. In the case of random seeding with limited control, we identify an optimal strategy and conditions under which the optimal price is not affected by the randomness of seeding.
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