Research & Publications
"Call for Prices": Strategic Implications of Raising Consumers' Costs
2010, Marketing Science
Preyas S. Desai, Anand Krishnamoorthy, Preethika Sainam
Many consumer durable retailers often do not advertise their prices and instead ask consumers to call them for prices. It is easy to see that this practice increases the consumers' cost of learning the prices of products they are considering, yet firms commonly use such practices. Not advertising prices may reduce the firm's advertising costs, but the strategic effects of doing so are not clear. Our objective is to examine the strategic effects of this practice. In particular, how does making price discovery more difficult for consumers affect competing retailers' price, service decisions, and profits? We develop a model in which a manufacturer sells its product through a high-service retailer and a low-service retailer. Consumers can purchase the retail service at the high-end retailer and purchase the product at the competing low-end retailer. Therefore, the high-end retailer faces a free-riding problem. A retailer first chooses its optimal service levels. Then, it chooses its optimal price levels. Finally, a retailer decides whether to advertise its prices. The model results in four structures: (1) both retailers advertise prices, (2) only the low-service retailer advertises price, (3) only the high-service retailer advertises price, and (4) neither retailer advertises price. We find that when a retailer does not advertise its price and makes price discovery more difficult for consumers, the competition between the retailers is less intense. However, the retailer is forced to charge a lower price. In addition, if the competing retailer does advertise its prices, then the competing retailer enjoys higher profit margins. We identify conditions under which each of the above four structures is an equilibrium and show that a low-service retailer not advertising its price is a more likely outcome than a high-service retailer doing so. We then solve the manufacturer's problem and find that there are several instances when a retailer's advertising decisions are different from what the manufacturer would want. We describe the nature of this channel coordination problem and identify some solutions.
Desai, Preyas S., Anand Krishnamoorthy, and Preethika Sainam (2010), "'Call for Prices': Strategic Implications of Raising Consumers' Costs," Marketing Science, Vol. 29, No. 1, pp. 158-174.