Loyalty programs in the sharing economy: Optimality and competition
Loyalty programs are important tools for sharing platforms seeking to grow supply. Online sharing platforms use loyalty programs to heavily subsidize resource providers, encouraging participation and boosting supply. As the sharing economy has evolved and competition has increased, the design of loyalty programs has begun to play a crucial role in the pursuit of maximal revenue. In this paper, we first characterize the optimal loyalty program for a platform with homogeneous users. We then show that optimal revenue in a heterogeneous market can be achieved by a class of multi-threshold loyalty program (MTLP) which admits a simple implementation-friendly structure. We also study the performance of loyalty programs in a setting with two competing sharing platforms, showing that the degree of heterogeneity is a crucial factor for both loyalty programs and pricing strategies. Our results show that sophisticated loyalty programs that reward suppliers via stepwise linear functions outperform simple sign-up bonuses, which give them a one time reward for participating.
© 2020 Published by Elsevier B.V. Received 5 September 2019, Revised 5 March 2020, Accepted 20 April 2020, Available online 11 May 2020. The work of Zhixuan Fang and Longbo Huang was supported in part by the National Natural Science Foundation of China Grant 61672316. The work of Adam Wierman is supported by National Science Foundation, United States Grant AitF-1637598, CNS-1518941. The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.