Ordered Consumer Search

Sep 2016 | 804

Authors: Mark Armstrong


The paper discusses situations in which consumers search through their options

in a deliberate order, in contrast to more familiar models with random search. Topics

include: the existence of ordered search equilibria with symmetric sellers (all con-

sumers first inspect the seller they anticipate sets the lowest price, and a seller which

is inspected first by consumers will set the lowest price); the use of price and non-

price advertising to direct search; the impact of consumers starting a new search at

their previous supplier; and the incentive a seller can have to raise its own search

cost. I also show how ordered search can be reformulated as a simpler discrete choice

problem without search frictions or dynamic decision making.

JEL Codes: D21, D43, D83, L11, L15, M37

Keywords: Consumer search, sequential search, ordered search, directed search, discrete choice, oligopoly, advertising, obfuscation.


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