Fall 2015

The Limits of Reputation in Platform Markets

Monday, November 16th, 2015 2:10 pm2:50 pm

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Reputation mechanisms used by platform markets suffer from two problems. First, buyers may draw conclusions about the quality of the platform from single transactions, causing a reputational externality. Second, reputation measures may be coarse or biased, preventing buyers from making proper inferences. We document these problems using eBay data and claim that platforms can benefit from identifying and promoting higher quality sellers. Using an unobservable measure of seller quality we demonstrate the benefits of our approach through a large-scale controlled experiment. Highlighting the importance of reputational externalities, we chart an agenda that aims to create more realistic models of platform markets.