Today’s technology facilitates selling strategies that were unthinkable only a few years ago. One increasingly popular strategy uses incompletely specified products (ICSPs). The seller retains the right to specify some details of the product or service after the sale. The selling strategies’ main advantages are an additional dimension for market segmentation and operational flexibility due to supply-side substitution possibilities. Since the strategy became popular with Priceline and Hotwire in the travel industry about two decades ago, it has increasingly been adopted by other industries with stochastic demand and limited capacity as well. At the same time, it is actively researched from the perspectives of strategic operations management, empirics, and revenue management.
This paper first describes the application of ICSPs in practice. Then, we introduce the different research communities that are active in this field and relate the terminology they use. The main part is an exhaustive review of the literature on selling ICSPs from the different perspectives. Here, we complement a tabular overview with an introduction into the community and a detailed description of each paper. Finally, possible directions for future research are outlined.
We see that strategic operations management has described advantages of ICSPs over other strategies in a variety of settings, but also identified countervailing effects. Today, empirical research is confined to hotels and airlines and largely disconnected from the other perspectives. Operational papers are ample, but mostly concerned with the availability of ICSPs. Research on operational (dynamic) pricing is surprisingly scarce.
Many industries use dynamic pricing on an operational level to maximize revenue from selling a fixed capacity over a finite horizon. Classical risk-neutral approaches do not accommodate the risk aversion often encountered in practice. When risk aversion is considered, time-consistency becomes an important issue. In this paper, we use a dynamic coherent risk-measure to ensure that decisions are actually implemented and only depend on states that may realize in the future. In particular, we use the risk measure Conditional Value-at-Risk (CVaR), which recently became popular in areas like finance, energy or supply chain management.
A result is that the risk-averse dynamic pricing problem can be transformed to a classical, risk-neutral problem. To do so, a surprisingly simple modification of the selling probabilities suffices. Thus, all structural properties carry over. Moreover, we show that the risk-averse and the risk-neutral solution of the original problem are proportional under certain conditions, that is, their optimal decision variable and objective values are proportional, respectively. In a small numerical study, we evaluate the risk vs. revenue trade-off and compare the new approach with existing approaches from literature.
This has straightforward implications for practice. On the one hand, it shows that existing dynamic pricing algorithms and systems can be kept in place and easily incorporate risk aversion. On the other hand, our results help to understand many risk-averse decision makers who often use “conservative” estimates of selling probabilities or discount optimal prices.
Product-related and market-related uncertainties often cause users to defer from switching to new IT devices. There is a value of waiting (VoW) for users because waiting allows them to collect more information. At the same time, many IT switching decisions are increasingly complex due to increased connectivity and the resulting interdependencies between jointly used devices. Therefore, switching decisions for connected devices not only need to consider the new device in isolation, but must also account for the potential benefits from internally or externally connecting the device with other devices. Although crucial for users and providers alike, existing models cannot explain whether and when users switch in such connected
We focus on connected Smart Home Devices (SHDs) and simulate users’ actual switching timing based on a real options model which combines switching and deferral concepts in a context-specific setting. We examine how Smart Home Network (SHN) density influences switching and how providers can use incentives to accelerate switching to foster product diffusion. The findings show an accelerating effect of connectivity and a deferring effect of uncertainty on actual switching timing. We also learn that SHD providers should focus more on immediate than on delayed incentives to promote product diffusion, since the latter can also have undesired effects. Interestingly, external connectivity has almost no influence on decision timing in scenarios with highly dense SHNs, leading to further key implications for SHD providers.
Bike sharing has been introduced in many cities, often by municipalities and is nowadays an established alternative for other short-distance transport systems. However, in cities with high elevations, the usual bike-sharing systems face a severe problem. Resulting from an imbalance of demand, the number of bikes at stations at elevated locations decreases during the day, while it increases at stations at lower locations. This situation poses a challenge for the relocation process because high numbers of bicycles have to be transported to the stations at elevated locations in order to achieve a suitable starting point for the next period. With the usage of e-bike sharing-systems, this problem can be circumvented because e-bikes facilitate the mobility in elevated and steep terrains. This paper considers an e-bike sharing-system with removable batteries. In the first step, a deterministic Mixed-Integer Linear Program (MILP) calculates the optimal route for trucks and the optimal initial distribution of bikes. In the second step, a stochastic simulation should evaluate these results.