Should capacitated firms set prices responsively to uncertain market conditions in a competitive environment? We study a duopoly selling differentiated substitutable products with fixed capacities under demand uncertainty, where firms can either commit to a fixed price ex ante, or elect to price contingently ex post, e.g., to charge high prices in booming markets, and low prices in slack markets. Interestingly, we analytically show that even for completely symmetric model primitives, asymmetric equilibria of strategic pricing decisions may arise, in which one firm commits statically and the other firm prices contingently; in this case, there also exists a unique mixed strategy equilibrium. Such equilibrium behavior tends to emerge, when capacity is ampler, and products are less differentiated or demand uncertainty is lower. With asymmetric fixed capacities, if demand uncertainty is low, a unique asymmetric equilibrium emerges, in which the firm with more capacity chooses committed pricing and the firm with less capacity chooses contingent pricing. We identify two countervailing profit effects of contingent pricing under competition: gains from responsively charging high price under high demand, and losses from intensified price competition under low demand. It is the latter detrimental effect that may prevent both firms from choosing a contingent pricing strategy in equilibrium. We show that the insights remain valid when capacity decisions are endogenized. We caution that responsive price changes under aggressive competition of less differentiated products can result in profit-killing discounting.
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© 2014 Production and Operations Management Society.
- committed pricing
- contingent pricing
- demand uncertainty
- revenue management