Why offer lower prices to past customers? Inducing favorable social price comparisons to enhance customer retention

Seung Hwan (Shawn) Lee, Scott Fay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Price discrimination policies vary widely across companies. Some firms offer new customers the lowest price; others give preferential prices to their past customers. We contribute to the literature on price discrimination in behavior-based pricing by exploring how customers’ social price comparisons, i.e., comparing one’s price to that received by similar peers, impact the optimal structure of price discrimination. Social price comparisons have a negative (positive) impact on customers’ transaction utility if the price charged to past customers is higher (lower) than a new customer’s price. Using an analytical model with vertically differentiated firms, we show that a firm with relatively large market share will reward its past customers with relatively low prices when social price comparisons have a sufficiently large impact on utility. Furthermore, we find that social price comparisons lead to a relaxation of the price competition for new customers. Thus, both firms can earn higher profits when such comparisons are made than when they are absent. We also examine how other factors, such as horizontal competition and strategic customers, interact with social price comparison concerns to impact pricing strategies. Finally, we show how pricing behavior differs when price comparisons are based on historic reference prices rather than on peers’ prices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-163
Number of pages41
JournalQuantitative Marketing and Economics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Behavior-based pricing
  • Price discrimination
  • Price fairness
  • Social price comparison
  • Unfairness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • Marketing


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