Item pricing for revenue maximization
ACM SIGecom Exchanges
We consider the problem of pricing n items to maximize revenue when faced with a series of unknown buyers with complex preferences, and show that a simple pricing scheme achieves surprisingly strong guarantees. We show that in the unlimited supply setting, a random single price achieves expected revenue within a logarithmic factor of the total social welfare for customers with general valuation functions, which may not even necessarily be monotone. This generalizes work of Guruswami et. al 
... ruswami et. al  , who show a logarithmic factor for only the special cases of single-minded and unit-demand customers. In the limited supply setting, we show that for subadditive valuations, a random single price achieves revenue within a factor of 2 O( √ log n log log n) of the total social welfare, i.e., the optimal revenue the seller could hope to extract even if the seller could price each bundle differently for every buyer. This is the best approximation known for any item pricing scheme for subadditive (or even submodular) valuations, even using multiple prices. We complement this result with a lower bound showing a sequence of subadditive (in fact, XOS) buyers for which any single price has approximation ratio 2 Ω(log 1/4 n) , thus showing that single price schemes cannot achieve a polylogarithmic ratio. This lower bound demonstrates a clear distinction between revenue maximization and social welfare maximization in this setting, for which [12, 10] show that a fixed price achieves a logarithmic approximation in the case of XOS  , and more generally subadditive , customers. We also consider the multi-unit case examined by  in the context of social welfare, and show that so long as no buyer requires more than a 1 − ǫ fraction of the items, a random single price now does in fact achieve revenue within an O(log n) factor of the maximum social welfare.