• On the Efficiency of Internet Markets for Consumer Goods


    Brian T. Rachford, Xing Pan, and Venkatesh Shankar

    This article was published in Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, 22 (Spring 2003), 4-16.

    Despite claims that electronic commerce lowers search costs dramatically, and therefore makes it easy for consumers to spot the best buy, empirical studies have found a substantial degree of price dispersion in electronic markets for consumer goods. This study investigates the consumer welfare implications of observed price levels and price dispersion in electronic markets. We examine the consumer welfare implications of changes in the structure of electronic commerce markets employing comprehensive data sets on e-tailer prices and services collected from BizRate.com in November 2000 and 2001. We find that price dispersion decreased substantially between these two periods, and that measured differences in e-tailer services bear little relation to e-tailer prices.

  • Price Dispersion on the Internet: A Review and Directions for Future Research


    by Xing Pan, Brian T. Ratchford, and Venkatesh Shankar

    This aricle was published in the Journal of Interactive Marketing, 18 (Autumn 2004), 116-135.

    The explosive growth in Internet retailing has sparked a stream of research on online price dispersion, defined as the distribution of prices (such as range and standard deviation) of an item with the same measured characteristics across sellers of the item at a given point in time.  In this paper, we review the empirical and analytical literatures on online price dispersion and outline the future directions in this research stream.  We address the issue of whether price dispersion is greater or smaller online than offline, examine whether price dispersion on the Internet has changed over time, discuss multi-channel retailing and measurement of price dispersion, explore why Internet price dispersion exists, and investigate the drivers of online price dispersion.


  • Can Price Dispersion in Online Markets be Explained by Differences in E-Tailer Service Quality?


    by Xing Pan, Brian T. Ratchford, and Venkaesh Shankar

    This article was published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 30 (Fall 2002), 433-445.

    It has been hypothesized that the online medium and the Internet lower search costs and that electronic markets are more competitive than conventional markets.  This suggests that price dispersion–the distribution of prices of an item indicated by measures such as range and standard deviation—of an item with the same measured characteristics across sellers of the item at a given point in time for identical products sold by e-tailers online (on the Internet) should be smaller than it is offline, but some recent empirical evidence reveals the opposite.  A study by Smith et al. (2000) speculates that this is due to heterogeneity among e-tailers in such factors as shopping convenience and consumer awareness.  Based on an empirical analysis of 105 e-tailers comprising 6739 price observations for 581 items in eight product categories, we show that online price dispersion is persistent, even after controlling for e-tailer heterogeneity.  Our general conclusion is that the proportion of the price dispersion explained by e-tailer characteristics is small. This evidence is contrary to the hypothesis that search costs in online markets are low, or that online markets are highly competitive.  The results also show that after controlling for differences in e-tailer service quality, prices at pure play e-tailers are equal to or lower than those at bricks-and-clicks e-tailers for all categories except books and computer software.