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Multibrand pricing as a strategy for consumer search obfuscation in online markets

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Stephen McDonald, Professor Colin Wren



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Wiley, 2018.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


This paper argues that a firm with multiple brands can obfuscate consumer search by excluding the brands of other firms from a consumer’s consideration set. This is examined empirically by regressing price data for a leading UK motor insurance price comparison site (or ‘shopbot’). It finds that multi-brand firms own three-quarters of brands in this market, and that allowing for other brand strategies they post significantly lower and clustered prices relative to other firms. The firms also conceal their brand ownership, consistent with search obfuscation. The results are not otherwise explained and they have implications for market competitiveness.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McDonald S, Wren C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Economics and Management Strategy

Year: 2018

Volume: 27

Issue: 2

Pages: 171-187

Online publication date: 15/01/2018

Acceptance date: 01/12/2017

Date deposited: 11/12/2017

ISSN (print): 1058-6407

ISSN (electronic): 1530-9134

Publisher: Wiley


DOI: 10.1111/jems.12239


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