by Joel R. Evans and Barry Berman, the Zarb School of Business
This is the sixth in our series of six columns on hints for price-setting by small firms. How would you respond to these questions?
- How are prices displayed? There are various options for displaying prices, depending on the pricing philosophy (such as a prestige image versus discounting): The home page of a Web site can present an image that is appropriate for the pricing strategy (limited stating of prices, emphasis on sale prices, etc.) Exterior store windows can show prices for selected sale items and/or highlight a store’s orientation (“Service that is a cut above the rest,” “The best brands at the best prices,” etc.). A small firm can compete by featuring selected sale items; but these prices must be promoted to shoppers so that they are aware of the good values at local stores. Interior store displays can emphasize or de-emphasize prices. To emphasize prices, a retailer can use large in-store signs that show prices of given items, promote a particular color price tag to indicate particularly good bargains, leave items in cartons, and have plain displays (such as dump bins) and fixtures. To de-emphasize prices, a retailer can use only small price tags that are attached directly to merchandise or have salespeople responsible for communicating prices (as done in upscale apparel stores and jewelry stores); there would be no overt references to prices in the store and the atmosphere would be stylish.
- What payment method(s) do you accept? Until about 20 years ago, large firm were the most apt to accept credit cards. They saw the value of them and got good terms from issuers. Many chains even developed their own cards to stimulate more customer loyalty. Today, things have changed; and all types of firms (big and small, general merchandise and food, bricks-and-mortar and online, etc.) now accept credit and/or debit cards. Why? Issuers have lowered fees, credit cards are widely advertised and easier for firms to process, more consumers than ever before actively use credit/debit cards and consider if given cards are accepted prior to entering Web sites or stores (hence, the success of the Visa campaign against American Express), smaller firms can use PayPal which is any easy way for them to accept multiple cards, and cash payments don’t work online. In choosing whether to accept credit and/or debit cards, a seller should consider: Are prices of individual items high? Is the total customer bill (the sum of the individual items bought on one shopping trip) high? Am I interested in increasing the impulse purchases shoppers make? Do competitors accept credit/debit cards? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, credit cards should be accepted.
- Do you understand both of these terms? Elastic demand? Inelastic demand? With elastic demand, shoppers perceive firms in the same category (such as gas stations, supermarkets, or pharmacies) to be rather similar. These firms must always be sure that their prices are competitive or they will lose business. With inelastic demand, shoppers perceive firms in the same category to be dissimilar, due to their locations, product assortments, customer service, etc. These firms can set premium prices since their unique characteristics encourage many customers to be brand/store loyal.
- What do you think about everyday low pricing? This approach has enabled Walmart to maintain a discounter image, attract a steady stream of price-conscious shoppers, reduce advertising expenditures, and run less frequent sales. However, for the typical firm, the better phrase is really “everyday fair pricing.” This means that each seller must strive to set its REGULAR PRICES in a way that appeals to the chosen customer market and that fairly reflects the merchandise, customer service, ambience, etc. offered by that firm. From the customer’s vantage point, prices must be perceived as fair – every day.
We hope that as you think more about the way that prices are set (and that you do so at least once or twice a year), and that you will peruse our series on this topic and see the “big picture” of pricing.