Platform Competition Under Partial Belief Advantage
Executive Summary — In platform competition in a two-sided market, a platform's ability to attract consumers depends not only on the consumers' beliefs regarding its quality, but also on consumers' beliefs regarding the platform's ability to attract the other side of the market. For example, in the market for smart-phones the recent introductions of Apple's iPhone 4S with the improved operating system, and Samsung's Galaxy II with the improved Android 4, open a new round in the competition between the two platforms. The ability of each platform to attract users depends not only on its perceived quality, but also on users' beliefs regarding the number new applications developed for the platform. Likewise, the ability to attract application developers to the platform depends on their beliefs regarding the number of users that will join the platform. In a competitive market, some platforms may enjoy more favorable beliefs of the market (about their ability to attract ``the other side) than other platforms. Such a belief advantage may be source of a competitive advantage. In this paper, the authors look at how the belief advantage helps the platform to compete in the market, and also how a platform may create the belief advantage. The authors find that the degree of the platform's belief advantage affects its decision regarding its business model (whether to subsidize buyers or sellers), as well as the access fees and the size of the platform. Moreover, the paper looks into the optimal advertising strategy that leads to creating belief advantage. This paper contributes to scholarship on economics and business strategy. Key concepts include:
- The advantaged platform can win the market even if it offers a lower quality than the disadvantaged platform, because of its ability to exploit its beliefs advantage.
- It is also possible for the disadvantaged platform to win if it offers substantially higher quality.
This paper considers platform competition in a two-sided market that includes buyers and sellers. One of the platforms benefits from a partial belief advantage, in that each side believes that it is more likely that the other side will join the advantaged platform. We find that the degree of the platform's belief advantage affects its decision regarding the business model (i.e., whether to subsidize buyers or sellers), the access fees and the size of the platform. A slight increase in the platform's belief advantage may induce the advantaged platform to switch from subsidizing sellers to subsidizing buyers, or induce the disadvantaged platform to switch from subsidizing buyers to subsidizing sellers.