Economics of Customer and Provider Information in Digital Platforms

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We examine the strategic implications of rating schemes in online marketplaces and peerto-peer platforms. In traditional online marketplaces, multi-dimensional rating scheme is superior to the single-dimensional rating scheme in reducing consumers’ uncertainty about the value of a product when consumers have heterogeneous preferences regarding the product quality attributes. However, we show that, when sellers respond to product ratings by adjusting their prices, the multi-dimensional rating scheme does not always benefit consumers. The main driver of the results is that the multi-dimensional ratings amplify the consumers’ perceptions of any underlying differentiation in the attributes of competing products, while simultaneously exposing the similarity between the products if they are homogeneous. Therefore, the rating scheme alters the heterogeneity in consumer perceptions and utility, which, in turn, affects the upstream price competition. In peerto-peer markets, many platforms use a bilateral review scheme in which both consumers and providers rate each other, unlike the more prevalent unilateral review scheme in which only consumers rate providers. We show that if the proportion of the low-cost consumers is less than a threshold, consumers are better off, the platform is worse off, and the providers are worse off under the bilateral review scheme than the unilateral review scheme. The key driver for these results is that the price competition between providers for the low-cost consumers can be fundamentally different under the different review schemes; the price competition affects the consumer preference for a provider and hence the match between consumers and providers, which ultimately determines the payoffs to participants and the social welfare. Our findings also contribute to the adverse selection literature by identifying the critical role played by demand and supply conditions on the impact of adverse selection

Cooperation, Information asymmetry, Consumer goods -- Evaluation, Electronic commerce
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