We examine a model of consumer learning and price signaling where price and quality are optimally chosen by a monopolist. Through numerical solution and simulation of the model we find that price signaling causes the firm to raise its prices, lower its quality, and dampen the degree to which it passes on cost shocks to price. We identify two mechanisms through which signaling affects pass-through. The first is static: holding quality fixed, price signaling increases the curvature of demand relative to the case where quality is known, which ultimately acts to dampen how prices respond to changes in cost. The second is dynamic: a firm that engages in signaling recognizes that changing prices today affects consumer beliefs about the relationship between prices and quality in the future. We also find that signaling can lead to asymmetric pass-through. If the cost of adjusting quality is sufficiently high, then cost increases pass through to a greater extent than cost decreases.
Shapiro, Adam Hale, and Matthew Osborne. 2014. “A Dynamic Model of Price Signaling, Consumer Learning, and Price Adjustment,” Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Working Paper 2014-27. Available at https://doi.org/10.24148/wp2014-27