The coevolution of the firm and the product attribute space

César García-Díaz, Gábor Péli, Arjen van Witteloostuijn

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Traditionally, firm competition has been studied in contexts where the dimensionality of the product attribute space is given, and firms deploy their strategies constrained by this space. However, firms may exert influence on the local structure of the product attribute space by offering product variants with new attributes. As a result, the geometry of the product attribute space would change endogenously through firms' actions, and this emergent new geometry modifies the conditions for subsequent firm behavior. By focusing on this interplay between actors and conditions, we explore the co-evolution of the firm and the product attribute space. Through a multi-variant Cournot competition framework, we develop a computational model in which firms invest to differentiate their products from other variants, but as minimally as possible so that demand from closely similar existing variants can be stolen. We introduce the fraction dimensionality of the attribute space as our critical independent variable, to reflect saturation of the space with product varieties. The simulation reveals that while new product variants are typically introduced by firms with scale economies, their performance gap with firms without scale economies reduces as fraction dimensionality increases. This indicates that space geometry evolution may favor small-scale players, even when their large-scale competitors are the driving force behind attribute space changes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0234007
Pages (from-to)e0234007
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


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