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Choice-based conjoint (CBC) studies have begun to rely on simulators to forecast equilibrium prices for pricing, strategic product positioning, and patent/copyright valuations. Whereas CBC research has long focused on the accuracy of estimated relative partworths of attribute levels, predicted equilibrium prices and strategic positioning are surprisingly and dramatically dependent on scale: the magnitude of the partworths (including the price coefficient) relative to the magnitude of the error term. Although the impact of scale on the ability to estimate heterogeneous partworths is well known, neither the literature nor current practice address the sensitivity of pricing and positioning to scale. This sensitivity is important because (estimated) scale depends on seemingly innocuous market-research decisions such as whether attributes are described by text or by realistic images. We demonstrate the strategic implications of scale using a stylized model in which heterogeneity is modeled explicitly. If a firm shirks on the quality of a CBC study and acts on incorrectly observed scale, a follower, but not an innovator, can make costly strategic errors. Externally valid estimates of scale are extremely important. We demonstrate empirically that image realism and incentive alignment affect scale sufficiently to change strategic decisions and affect patent/copyright valuations by hundreds of millions of dollars.


This article was originally published in Marketing Science, volume 38, issue 6, in 2019.

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