Research / BFI Working PaperDec 06, 2021

Incorporating Search and Sales Information in Demand Estimation

Ali Hortaçsu, Olivia R. Natan, Hayden Parsley, Timothy Schwieg, Kevin R. Williams

We propose an approach to modeling and estimating discrete choice demand that allows for a large number of zero sale observations, rich unobserved heterogeneity, and endogenous prices. We do so by modeling small market sizes through Poisson arrivals. Each of these arriving consumers then solves a standard discrete choice problem. We present a Bayesian IV estimation approach that addresses sampling error in product shares and scales well to rich data environments. The data requirements are traditional market-level data and measures of consumer search intensity. After presenting simulation studies, we consider an empirical application of air travel demand where product-level sales are sparse. We find considerable variation in demand over time. Periods of peak demand feature both larger market sizes and consumers with higher willingness to pay. This amplifies cyclicality. However, observed frequent price and capacity adjustments offset some of this compounding effect.

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