Responsive pricing of fashion products: The effects of demand learning and strategic consumer behavior

Yossi Aviv, Mike Mingcheng Wei, Fuqiang Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This paper studies the potential benefits of responsive pricing and demand learning to sellers of seasonal fashion goods. As typical in such markets, demand uncertainty is high at the beginning of a season, but there is a potential opportunity to learn about demand via early sales observations. Additionally, although the consumers have general preference for purchasing a fashion product earlier rather than later in the season, they may exhibit strategic behavior—contemplating the benefits of postponing their purchase in anticipation of end-of-season discounts. Our results demonstrate that the benefits of responsive pricing, in comparison with a benchmark case of a fixed-price policy, depend sharply on the nature of the consumers’ behavior. Interestingly, in stark contrast to markets of myopic consumers, when the consumers are all strategic, the benefits of responsive pricing tend to worsen when there is a higher potential for learning. We explain this counterintuitive outcome by pointing to two phenomena: the spread effect and information shaping. For example, sellers of fashion products that consider upgrading their pricing systems to incorporate “accurate response” strategies (i.e., integrating learning and responsive pricing) should be aware of the possibility that such action might lead them to a new and potentially worse equilibrium, particularly when there is a higher opportunity to learn. Despite the fact that price commitment completely eliminates the seller’s ability to learn, it appears to increasingly dominate responsive pricing as the portion of strategic consumers in the market increases. But, although performing better than responsive pricing, a price-commitment policy is typically limited in performing effective discrimination. Finally, we studied the potential benefits of quick response strategies—ones that embed both dynamic pricing and quick inventory replenishment during the sales season—and found that they are particularly significant under strategic consumer behavior. We explain this result by arguing that quick response provides the seller with a real option that serves as an effective implicit threat to the consumers: encouraging them to buy earlier at premium prices rather than wait for discounts at the end of the season.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2982-3000
Number of pages19
JournalManagement Science
Volume65
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2019

Keywords

  • Demand learning
  • Dynamic pricing
  • Game theory
  • Revenue management
  • Strategic consumer behavior

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