Digitization and profitability

Yasushi Masuda, Seungjin Whang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Consider a monopolistic vendor who faces a known demand curve. By setting a price that equates marginal revenue with marginal cost, the vendor will maximize his profit. This logic holds true of both physical and digital goods. But since digitization will lower the variable production cost, it will strictly increase the profit to the vendor. Then, can we conclude that digitization always improves the vendor’s profitability? Not necessarily. Now consider what will happen on the next day of the sales. Facing deterministic demand, the physical goods vendor must have prepared the exact quantity of the product to sell, and thus all products are sold out. By contrast, the digital goods vendor will have no stock out, thanks to the nature of the digital good. Therefore, the rational vendor will try to sell more and achieve a higher profit after the sales date. To this end, the vendor will now lower the price to attract additional customers with lower reservation prices. The process will indefinitely continue. Knowing this would happen, customers will wait for the price reduction. Even the customers who would have purchased on the first day would defer the purchase until price gets lower. The digital goods vendor will anticipate this and accordingly lower the price on the first day and later, thereby compromising his profitability. Note that this downward spiral takes place as a result of digitization. Thus, digitization may not necessarily improve the profitability to the vendor. We develop an economic model to formally analyze the impact of digitization on the profitability to the vendor.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInformation Systems and e-Business Management
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2019 Jan 1

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Keywords

  • Digital goods pricing
  • Exponentiality
  • Strategic customers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems

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