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Reducing Buyer Search Costs: Implications for Electronic Marketplaces

Authors: Bakos, Yannis
Keywords: electronic markets;search costs;consumer search;electronic commerce;internal markets
Issue Date: Dec-1997
Publisher: Management Science
Citation: Management Science, Vol. 43, No. 12, December 1997
Series/Report no.: CeDER-PP-1997-01
Abstract: Information systems can serve as intermediaries between the buyers and the sellers in a market, creating an "electronic marketplace" that lowers the buyers' cost to acquire information about seller prices and product offerings. As a result, electronic marketplaces reduce the inefficiencies caused by buyer search costs, in the process reducing the ability of sellers to extract monopolistic profits while increasing the ability of markets to optimally allocate resources. This article models the role of buyer search costs in markets with differentiated product offerings. The impact of reducing these search costs in analyzed in the context of an electronic marketplace, and the allocational efficiencies such a reduction can bring to a differentiated market are formalized. The resulting implications for the incentives of buyers, sellers, and independent intermediaries to invest in electronic marketplaces are explored. Finally, the possibility to separate price information from product attribute information is introduced, and the implications of designing markets promoting competition along each of these dimension are discussed.
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