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Should You Display Your Competitor's Prices?

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Should You Display Your Competitor's Prices?
The Debate Over Displaying Competitors’ Prices 
 
Many commentators have weighed in on the raging debate over the value of displaying competitors’ prices on your ecommerce website. As an ecommerce manager or brand owner, you might never have considered the idea. You might be skeptical that there could be value in displaying a competitor’s prices for a product since your website visitors are interested in you, not some competitor. 
 
Still others in the blogosphere question the value of publishing any pricing information at all, not just your competitors’. The Hubspot blog weighs in favor of what it calls a “controversial” subject, the idea of publishing pricing at all. Below, we consider their arguments and some others you might not have considered to indicate why the novel idea of publishing competitors’ prices might just work for you.
 
 
Going Against Accepted Culture 
 
It’s important to realize that pricing data is now more readily available than at any time in modern history. Due to the power of technology, apps, and the internet, a buyer in London can instantly check what something costs on the other side of the world, in far off Sydney, Australia. 
 
A History Of No Price Data
 
A century ago, this data was simply not available. At best, it took months, if not years, for pricing data around the world to propagate. Even 25 years ago, the kind of data-enabled apps that collate this kind of information and make it instantly available to users everywhere, did not yet exist. 
 
Buying Culture Adapted To Price Opacity
 
In the old context, therefore, the buying culture simply accepted that prices were, of necessity, somewhat opaque. Fast forward to today, and the accepted cultural behaviours regarding price data have not changed completely yet.
 
 
Does Displaying Prices Mean Your Brand Is Cheap?
 
A user on Quora asks a revealing question in regard to price displays and brand:
 
“Why do ultra luxury brands rarely show prices on their websites?”
 
As the answers show, there are many reasons, due to the branding traditions that are accepted as standard. 
 
The “Best” Brands Display No Prices
 
In some industries, price opacity is actually celebrated. Have you ever bought a premium, high end product in a high end boutique? If so, you might not have known what something was going to cost until you actually went to pay for it. High end watch brands and other luxury brands don’t like to display prices, thinking it will cheapen their brands.
 
Main Street Brands Like To Copy High End Practices
 
This thinking, associated with the highest quality, elite brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Rolex, permeates to everyday brands on mainstreet as well. Unless a brand is selling products direct to consumers on their website, in an online store, for example, they might be reluctant to tell strangers how much something costs. 
 
 
The Unsung Advantages of Customer Transparency 
 
In some ways, the debate over displaying your competitors’ prices or your own, on your website, is similar to the debate over product reviews when Amazon pioneered the practice. In the words of a Bloomberg report:
 
“When Amazon.com (AMZN) first began letting customers post reviews of products in 1995, many people thought the Internet retailer had lost its marbles. Letting consumers rant about products in public was a recipe for retail suicide, critics thought.” 
 
It’s taken a while, but pricing data has now come of age as well. The debate is now heating up, just like it did for product reviews more than 25 years ago. 
 
To determine how this will play out in the long run and whether it’s good strategy for you to be displaying competitors prices, we should look carefully at that history.
 
Amazon, not to mention its competitors in the online retail space, was concerned that displaying unfiltered customer reviews might lead to website visitors not buying the products. After all, if some disappointed owner of an item is bashing it in a review, that might discourage the next would be buyer from buying the said product.
 
To their credit, Amazon went ahead with the display of customer reviews anyway. This move fostered a new era of transparency and honesty with the customer, the very things that are sorely needed when it comes to pricing data.
 
 
Why You Should Publish Competitors’ Prices On Your Website Or Store
 
Looking ahead, we suggest that competitor price publishing could go the way of the unfiltered customer product review. Amazon made the bold move of publishing negative reviews from people who did not like what Amazon had sold them. More customers read the reviews and bought the products anyway.
 
The Mindset Of Selling To Yesterday’s Buyers
 
You might be thinking it won’t work to publish competitors’ prices on your website because you don’t want to mention that a competitor is selling those cheap sunglasses for even cheaper on their website. Or, perhaps, you are concerned that displaying their price for the latest smartphone, which is lower than what you are selling for, will “besmirch” the value of your brand.
 
This is very logical thinking, but perhaps it’s rooted in the data-starved world of 25 years ago, when there was no way, anyway, for the customer to find out in a timely way.  
 
Winning The Battle For The Buyers Of Tomorrow
 
Nowadays, with apps and technology in the hands of every potential buyer, accurate price data is just a Google search away.
 
The brands that win will be those that can meet customers where they are in terms of what they want and how they want it. 
 
This means that if customers want to be able to comparison shop based on price, some business is likely going to do well by meeting this wish and placing the competitors’ prices right on their own webstore. That business could be yours. 
 
This does not mean it’s the only viable strategy. Not by a long shot.
 
We imagine, for instance, that you could as effectively decide price comparisons is not your thing, and stake your brand’s future on just providing the most amazing level of customer support available anywhere. Footwear brand Zappos certainly did this, winning on the basis of their customer service.
 
You just need to be clear where you stand, and what your unique value proposition to the customers of tomorrow is going to be.
 
Amazon, we suggest here, would be that brand that staked its reputation on radical transparency, pandering to ultimate openness with the customer, even when it was not fashionable. 
 
A customer could be complaining in a review about the atrocious customer service they received from Amazon when they tried to return the item. Amazon published the review anyway.  
 
 
The Practicalities of Displaying Competitors’ Prices 
 
You might be convinced you want to try displaying competitors’ prices on your website. If so, there are some things you should be aware of in order to make it work. 
 
Legalities
 
First, the legalities. We are not lawyers, so you might want to check with your legal department to be sure. However, if you are going to publish competitors’ prices, it’s a good idea to be as accurate and up to date as possible.
 
Publishing old or inaccurate prices could open up your business to lawsuits for defamation. It could also damage your brand reputation if customers think you are publishing inaccurate prices for competitors because your own brand is overcharging for goods.
 
Collecting Price Data
 
Another practicality to address is the collection and publishing of competitor prices. For collecting competitors’ prices, we suggest using an automated price intelligence tool that scours the internet and does the research for you. We offer such a pricing tool ourselves, but there are many more providers around the web.
 
Displaying the Price Data
 
When it comes to displaying the prices next to your own, there are some other software providers that allow you to easily embed price comparisons on your website. 
 
Winning the Future
 
It might take some work, but, for the right brand, displaying competitors’ prices will be the step towards preparing for the empowered customer of the future, just as Amazon did all those years ago. 
 
Look where it got them.
 
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