Marketing literature has long recognized that price response need not be monotonic and symmetric, but has yet to provide generalizable market-level insights on reference price type, asymmetric thresholds and sign and magnitude of elasticity transitions. In this paper, we introduce smooth transition models to study reference-based price response across 25 fast moving consumer good categories. Our application to 100 brands shows that 77% demonstrate reference-based price response, of which 36% reflects historical reference prices, 31% reflects competitive reference prices, and 33% reflects both types of reference prices. This reference-based price response shows asymmetry for gains versus losses on three levels: the threshold size, the sign and the magnitude of the elasticity difference. For historical reference prices, the threshold size is larger for gains (20%) than for losses (12%) and the assimilation/contrast effects for gains (-0.41) are smaller than the saturation effects for losses (0.81). For competitive reference prices, the threshold size is smaller for gains (3%) than for losses (16%), and the saturation effects are larger for gains (0.33) than for losses (0.15). These results are moderated by both brand and category characteristics that affect reference price accessibility and diagnosticity. Historical reference prices more often play a role for national brands, for planned purchases and in inexpensive categories with low price volatility and high purchase frequency. When price discounting, high-share brands face larger latitudes of acceptance. When raising prices, saturation effects set in later for brands with high price volatility and for categories with high price spread and for planned purchases. As for competitive reference prices, saturation effects set in later for expensive brands with high price volatility and in categories with lower price volatility, higher price spread and higher concentration. Sales, revenue and margin implications are illustrated for price changes typically observed in consumer markets.

Additional Metadata
Keywords asymmetric price thresholds, competitive versus historical reference prices, empirical generalizations, kinked demand curve, saturation versus assimilation/contrast effects, smooth-transition regression models
JEL Statistical Decision Theory; Operations Research (jel C44), Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting (jel M), Marketing (jel M31)
Persistent URL hdl.handle.net/1765/1097
Series ERIM Report Series Research in Management
Citation
Pauwels, K.H, Franses, Ph.H.B.F, & Srinivasan, S. (2003). Reference-based transitions in short-run price elasticity (No. ERS-2003-095-MKT). ERIM Report Series Research in Management. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/1097