HKS Authors

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We study how search and information frictions shape market dynamics in global e-commerce. Observational data and self-collected quality measures from AliExpress establish the existence of search and information frictions. A randomized experiment that offers new exporters exogenous demand and information shocks demonstrates the potential role of sales accumulation in enhancing seller visibility and overcoming these demand frictions. However, we show theoretically and quantitatively that this demand-reinforcement mechanism is undermined by the large number of online exporters. Our structural model rationalizes the experimental findings and quantifies efficiency gains from reducing the number of inactive sellers.


Bai, Jie, Maggie Chen, Jin Liu, and Daniel Yi Xu. "Search and Information Frictions on Global E-Commerce Platforms: Evidence from AliExpress." HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP20-037, November 2020; Updated September 2021.