Designing Entry Strategies for Subscription Platforms

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We consider a subscription platform that offers services to variety-seeking consumers who incorporate transportation costs in their decision of how many and which vendor services to consume. ClassPass in fitness and MoviePass in entertainment are examples of such platforms. We find that for the platform to be successful, it should enter markets where consumers’ added benefit from patronizing more than one vendor is relatively high, thus strengthening the position of the platform in negotiations with the vendors. As well, managers should consider entering markets where competition between the vendors is relatively weak and in particular, where vendors benefit from local monopoly positions because of high transportation costs incurred by consumers. When entering such markets, offering the subscription contract is likely to attract new customers who are not active when the platform does not exist. Moreover, appropriate crafting of the agreement with the vendors in this case allows the parties to fully extract the surplus derived by platform customers. Last, the platform’s managers should be cognizant of the need to identify tools that facilitate alleviated price competition with vendors. Negotiating over an appropriate transfer fee per customer to pay the vendor or imposing restrictions on the level of service that their customers can use may be such tools. Offering customers lower-quality services when using the vendor in comparison with the quality they could obtain by buying directly from him may not be a successful tool to alleviate price competition.

This paper was accepted by Duncan Simester, marketing.

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