Vickrey vs. eBay: Why Second-Price Sealed-Bid Auctions Lead to More Realistic Price-Demand Functions

Christian Barrot, Sönke Albers, Bernd Skiera, and Björn Schäfers
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 14 Number 4, Summer 2010, pp. 7.

Abstract: Knowledge of consumers’ willingness-to-pay (WTP) is critical for marketing managers when designing optimal pricing policies. The large-scale applicability, reliability, and validity of Vickrey auctions as an incentive-compatible method for eliciting WTP in a real-world setting were tested empirically. The results of 6,548 sealed bids in 28 auctions of costly durables on a popular auction Web site show that regular on-line shoppers have little problem understanding and applying the Vickrey auction bidding strategy. As a result, Vickrey auctions can easily produce a reliable and valid distribution of WTP based on several thousand consumers. A comparison of Vickrey auctions with the more commonly used English or eBay auctions shows, both conceptually and empirically, that the latter formats do not fully reflect the complete range of potential customers’ WTP and, therefore, lead to systematic overestimation of price-demand functions. In contrast, WTP information elicited through Vickrey auctions is undistorted by strategic behavior such as bid-sniping and incorporates the full range of WTP information, suggesting that it is better suited for estimating realistic price-demand functions for market research purposes.

Key Words and Phrases: Market research, on-line auctions, pricing, Vickrey auctions, willingness-to-pay.