Managing Piracy: Pricing and Sampling Strategies for Digital Experience Goods in Vertically Segmented Markets
Information systems research
D igital goods lend themselves to versioning but also suffer from piracy losses. This paper develops a pricing model for digital experience goods in a segmented market and explores the optimality of sampling as a piracy-mitigating strategy. Consumers are aware of the true fit of an experience good to their tastes only after consumption, and as piracy offers an additional (albeit illegal) consumption opportunity, traditional segmentation findings from economics and sampling recommendations from
... arketing, need to be revisited. We develop a two-stage model of piracy for a market where consumers are heterogeneous in their marginal valuation for quality and their moral costs. In our model, some consumers pirate the product in the first stage allowing them to update their fit-perception that may result in re-evaluation of their buying/pirating decision in the second stage. We recommend distinct pricing and sampling strategies for underestimated and overestimated products and suggest that any potential benefits of piracy can be internalized through product sampling. Two counterintuitive results stand out. First, piracy losses are more severe for products that do not live up to their hype rather than for those that have been undervalued in the market, thus requiring a greater deterrence investment for the former, and second, unlike physical goods where sampling is always beneficial for underestimated products, sampling for digital goods is optimal only under narrowly defined circumstances due to the price boundaries created by both piracy and segmentation.