Lifting the Veil: Essays on Firm Transparency and Consumer Behavior
CitationMohan, Bhavya. 2016. Lifting the Veil: Essays on Firm Transparency and Consumer Behavior. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Business School.
AbstractThis research examines the effects of firm transparency on consumer behavior. Three essays investigate how consumer behavior changes when firms are transparent about costs, wages, and promotional strategies. Essay one investigates when and why firms benefit from revealing confidential unit cost information to consumers. A natural field experiment conducted with an online retailer suggests that cost transparency can boost sales. Subsequent controlled lab experiments replicate this basic effect and provide evidence for why it occurs. Essay two examines whether consumer behavior is influenced by the disclosure of a firm’s pay ratio - the ratio of the total compensation of the CEO to the average annual compensation of all other employees. Pilot field data and a series of experiments show that pay ratio disclosure affects the purchase intentions of a subset of consumers, via perceptions of wage fairness. Essay three examines how marketing offers that are framed as percentages can confuse consumers, due to highly non-linear impacts in terms of actual value. Three lab studies and one field experiment show that while even highly numerate consumers are prone to error, the transparent provision of rate information can help consumers evaluate offers more accurately.
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