Sengupta, Anirban (2009-06). Essays in economics of electronic commerce. Doctoral Dissertation.
The advent of the internet has revolutionized the way people buy and sell. The internet is characterized by increased access to information. This increased information should foster convergence to the "law of one price," for homogenous goods. The surge of electronic markets has motivated a stream of research focusing on comparing the efficiency of the internet market to the traditional one. This dissertation contributes to the existing literature of consumer search behavior in electronic markets and its effects on the price level and dispersion in the market more generally. A part of this dissertation assesses the direct and indirect effect of increased internet usage on the prices of airline tickets, using a unique contemporaneous online and offline transaction data for airline tickets, covering the final quarter of 2004. The study also investigates the relationship between increased internet usage and price dispersion in the market for airline tickets. This study also includes an exhaustive set of controls for airline ticket characteristics, namely refundability, advance purchase requirements, travel and stay restrictions, class of travel, departure and return day of the week and time, flight level load factor along with other market structure data used in the standard airlines literature. The existing theoretical literature in consumer search extended to the electronic markets assumes, for simplicity, that all consumers in the internet markets are the "searchers," looking for the lowest price. The internet, however, also plays the role of a convenient shopping medium for a group of consumers whose primary motivation is not to search for the lowest price. The contemporary literature incorrectly categorizes these consumers as the traditional searchers. The remaining part of this dissertation provides a modification to the existing theoretical models of consumer search to accommodate both searchers and non-searchers in each of the electronic and traditional markets and derive the implications of the increased internet usage on the average level of prices and price dispersion in a market selling a homogenous good.