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Dynamic Competitive Retail Pricing Behavior with Uncertainty and Learning, Managerial and Decision Economics


When competing retailers lack full information about rivals' decision processes, how will dynamic pricing behavior vary from patterns observed in more traditional static or full-information models? We investigate this question in a dynamic alternating-moves duopoly model. Retailers update (linear) conjectures about rivals' future prices in a Bayesian fashion. We show that as observed and expected prices converge, a pricing equilibrium is always achieved, whether or not the conjectured and actual values of the slope of the rival's best response function are consistent. Assuming specific parameter values, we compare equilibrium prices and associated profits in our Bayesian learning model with those obtained under the assumptions of static Nash behavior, collusive behavior and dynamically optimal behavior with full information. We apply the notions of strategic substitutability and strategic complementarity to the analysis and find that when products are strategic complements, conjectures of higher rival price responsiveness lead to higher steady-state prices and profits. The reverse is true for strategic substitutes. We also find that learning about a rival's behavior proceeds more quickly, the less intensely related in demand are products. We find, in general, that equilibrium pricing patterns and profits can vary considerably from those in full-information environments, but that even with grossly wrong beliefs about rival behavior, competing retailers are still attracted to an equilibrium. The analysis suggests not only the value of investigating less-than-full information situations but also the potential incremental value of signalling greater or less aggressiveness than truly characterizes one's behavior as a strategic option.




Anne Coughlan, Murali K. Mantrala

Date Published



Coughlan, Anne, and Murali K. Mantrala. 1994. Dynamic Competitive Retail Pricing Behavior with Uncertainty and Learning. Managerial and Decision Economics. 15(1): 3-20.


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