Assortment Planning for Vertically Differentiated Products

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Abstract

We consider the problem of a retailer managing a category of vertically differentiated products. The retailer has to pay a fixed cost for each product included in the assortment and a variable cost per product sold. Quality levels, fixed, and variable costs are exogenously determined. Customers differ in their valuation of quality and choose the product (if any) that maximizes their utility. First, we consider a setting in which the selling prices are also fixed. We find that the optimal set of products to offer depends on the distribution of customer valuations and might include dominated products, that is, products which are less attractive than at least one other product, on every possible dimension. We develop an efficient algorithm to identify an optimal assortment. Second, we consider a setting in which the retailer also determines the selling prices. We show that in this case the optimal assortment does not include any dominated product and does not vary with the distribution of customer valuations when there is no fixed cost. We develop several efficient algorithms to identify an optimal assortment and optimally price the products. We also test the applicability of our methods with realistic data for two product categories.

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