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Product differentiation

Product differentiation

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Product differentiation

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  1. Product differentiation • Two major forms of product differentiation - Quality - Variety • Differentiation by quality is Vertical differentiation - everyone agrees what is better or worse • Differentiation by variety is Horizontal differentiation - not everyone agrees what is better or worse

  2. Four brands of breakfast cereal . Which brand would be preferred by a consumer? Crunchiness A B C D Sweetness

  3. Four brands of a refrigerator . Which brand would be preferred by a consumer? Durability A B C D Size

  4. Trade-offs in laptop computer . Which brand would be preferred by a consumer? What if B were not available? In the end, it’s all a matter of taste!! Battery life A B C D Computing power

  5. Differentiation, cost and entry . High Unsuccessful entry Uncertain success Cost relative to competition Successful entry Low High Differentiation relative to competition

  6. Competition in differentiated products • Pretzel vendor in NY can locate where most consumers are • But competition is very intense there • Or he can move a block away to reduce competition • But he is distant from most consumers • What is the optimal location?

  7. Hotelling’s model of horizontal differentiation • Two businesses on a line segment • Prices at L and R are and • Consider consumer at a fraction x of distance from L to R • Let c be cost of moving from L to R L R Consumers of L Consumers of R

  8. Hotelling’s model of horizontal differentiation • Consumer’s total cost at L is +cx • Consumer’s total cost at R is +c(1-x) • Consumer buys from business where she has lower cost • This determines the marginal consumer that is indifferent between buying from L and R • This is given by • The optimal prices of both firms are = =c

  9. Implications of the model of differentiation • If L decreases price its sales increase is proportional to 1/c • Business stealing is easy when c is small • Thus c is the measure of differentiation between the products of L and R • Profits are proportional to differentiation c • The length of interval between L and R is a measure of consumer heterogeneity

  10. Where should firms locate? • Let prices be held constant • The marginal consumer is at midpoint between L and R • So L has incentive to move to right to increase its market • But then R has incentive to move to left • Thus, without consideration of prices, L and R wind up next to each other L R

  11. Spatial preemption • Suppose there is fixed cost F for creating a new location • How far apart must two products be to prevent admission of entrant E? • If unit transportation cost is t and distance between L and R is d, then c=td E’s market has length d/2 E L R d/2 d/2

  12. Spatial preemption • Transportation cost from L (or R) to E is dt/2 • Thus E’s optimal price is the transportation cost, dt/2 • Size of E’s market is d/2 • Therefore E’s profit, were it to enter is • Entry is profitable if

  13. Implications of spatial preemption model • One can preempt with substantially fewer products than would exist in competitive conditions • Preemptive distance d grows with fixed cost, but at a decreasing rate • Thus, increasing entrants fixed cost is not a cost-effective strategy to preempt entry • It is better to fill up the product space • Market can accommodate firms that are much closer than level at which preemption occurs

  14. Sources of differentiation advantage • Creating synergies • Networks