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In both consumer purchasing and industrial procurement, combinatorial interdependencies among the items to be purchased are commonplace. E-commerce compounds the problem by providing more opportunities for switching suppliers at low costs, but also potentially eases the problem by enabling automated market decision-making systems, commonly referred to as trading agents, to make purchasing decisions in an integrated manner across markets. Most of the existing research related to trading agents assumes that there exists a combinatorial market mechanism in which buyers (or sellers) can bid (or sell) service or merchant bundles. Today’s prevailing e-commerce practice, however, does not support this assumption in general and thus limits the practical applicability of these approaches. We are investigating a new approach to deal with the combinatorial interdependency challenges for online markets. This approach relies on existing commercial online market institutions such as posted-price markets and various online auctions that sell single items. It uses trading agents to coordinate a buyer’s purchasing and bidding activities across multiple online markets simultaneously to achieve the best overall procurement effectiveness. This paper presents two sets of models related to this approach. The first set of models formalizes optimal purchasing decisions across posted-price markets with fixed transaction costs. Flat shipping costs, a common e-tailing practice, are captured in these models. We observe that making optimal purchasing decisions in this context is N P-hard in the strong sense and suggest several efficient computational methods based on discrete location theory. The second set of models is concerned with the coordination of bidding activities across multiple online auctions. We study the underlying coordination problem for a collection of firstor second-price sealed-bid auctions and derive the optimal coordination and bidding policies.


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