Experimenting With Purchase History Based Price Discrimination

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Many purchases of differentiated goods are repeated, giving sellers the opportunity to engage in price discrimination based upon the shopper's previous behavior by either offering loyalty discounts to repeat buyers or introductory rates to new customers. Recent theoretical work suggests that loyalty discounts can be profitable to sellers when customer preferences are not stationary and sellers can pre-commit to prices for repeat buyers, but otherwise returning customers can be expected to pay the same or more than new buyers. This paper reports behavior in controlled laboratory experiments designed to empirically test the impact of these factors on pricing strategies. The results generally support the comparative static predictions of the theoretical model. When customer preferences are fixed over time, sellers attempt to lure customers from their rival. Price pre-commitment for repeat shoppers when buyer preferences vary over time resulted in modest loyalty pricing, but the discounts are not as prevalent as predicted as sellers rarely price below cost. Behaviorally, price pre-commitment to loyal customers is found to reduce prices overall.


This comment was originally published in International Journal of Industrial Organization in 2013. The link above is to the authoritative publisher’s version, as noted by the Economic Science Institute, and may reside behind a paywall.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.