February 25, 2022

Sophisticated Consumers with Inertia: Long-Term Implications from a Large-Scale Field Experiment

10:00 AM - 11:30 PM



  • Host(s): Associate Professor Vibhanshu Abhishek
  • Speaker(s): Navdeep Sahni, Associate Professor of Marketing
  • University: Stanford University, Stanford Graduate School of Business
Consumer inertia is a well documented phenomenon that effectively creates market power for firms over their existing customer base. However, it is unknown how self-aware consumers are about their inertia and how they preemptively respond to their future inertia. We quantify actual inertia, consumer anticipated inertia, and their responses to it using a large-scale field experiment with a leading European newspaper. We vary the price, duration, and whether a contract is automatically canceled or renews after a promotional period. We document higher subscription rates after the promo among those offered an auto-renewal contract, and at the same time find 24% fewer takers of any contract during the promotional period, and 9% fewer subscribers at any point in the two years that follow. Leveraging the price and duration treatments we quantify that the average consumer predicts a 13% chance of being inert within a month, versus an actual inertia of 36%. In a complementary approach of classifying potential subscribers to different types, we classify more than a third as sophisticates who avoid subscribing, a third as time-consistent who cancel immediately after the promo, and only a tenth as naive enough to remain subscribed for more than three months due to inertia. Our results imply that more consumers avoid these mildly exploitative contracts than fall prey to them.