Measuring the Welfare of Intermediaries
73 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2018 Last revised: 1 Sep 2021
Date Written: August 5, 2021
We investigate the welfare of intermediaries in oligopolistic markets where intermediaries offer
additional services. We exploit the unique circumstance that in the empirical setting studied, outdoor advertising, consumers can purchase from manufacturers or intermediaries. Intermediaries provide additional services to the consumers and charge a margin for them. Intermediaries provide the following additional services: search services (information about products), purchase-aggregation services (access to quantity discounts), and consulting services. We specify an equilibrium model and structurally estimate it using market-level data. The demand includes consumers with costly search and channel-specific preferences. The supply includes two distribution channels. One features bargaining about wholesale prices between manufacturers and intermediaries, and downstream price competition. The other is vertically integrated. We show how Google-search data can be used to identify the search-cost parameters. We use the estimated model to simulate counterfactual scenarios where intermediaries do not offer additional services. We find that the three services considered provide value to consumers, with search playing a prominent role. Our analysis helps explain why intermediaries are ubiquitous in modern economies despite the double marginalization.
Keywords: D83, L42, L51, L81, M37
JEL Classification: Intermediaries, vertical integration, double marginalization, search frictions, bargaining, advertis
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