Information vs Competition: How Platform Design Affects Profits and Surplus

A. Piolatto, Florian Schuett

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Abstract

We study the design of online platforms that aggregate information and facilitate transactions. Two different designs can be observed in the market: revealing platforms that disclose the identity of transaction partners(e.g.Booking) and anonymous platforms that do not (e.g. Hotwire).To analyse the implications of this design choice for profit sand surplus, we develop a model in which consumers differ in their location as well as their preferred productvariety. Sellers offer their products for sale both directly(`offine') and indirectly via the platform(`online') but are unable to credibly disclose the productvariety they offer when selling online. The model gives rise to a novel trade-off associated with the anonymous platform design: offline, consumers observe location but not variety; online, they observe variety but not location. While there vealing design leads to more informed consumers and better matches, the anonymous design allows sellers top rice discriminate and introduces competition between sellers whose markets would otherwise be segmented. We show that the comparison between the designs depends crucially on the relative importance of information about location vis-a-vis information about variety. For an intermediate range, the anonymous design outperforms there vealing design in terms of both profits and welfare.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTilburg
PublisherCentER, Center for Economic Research
Number of pages59
Volume2022-005
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2022

Publication series

NameCentER Discussion Paper
Volume2022-005

Keywords

  • anonymous information platforms
  • opaque products
  • horizontal competition
  • experience goods
  • mismatch costs

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