9.6: Price flexibility
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Another pricing decision relates to the extent of price flexibility. A flexible pricing policy means that the price is bid or negotiated separately for each exchange. This is a common practice when selling to organizational markets where each transaction is typically quite large. In such cases, the buyer may initiate the process by asking for bidding on a product or service that meets certain specifications. Alternatively, a buyer may select a supplier and attempt to negotiate the best possible price. Marketing effectiveness in many industrial markets requires a certain amount of price flexibility.
Discounts and allowances
In addition to decisions related to the base price of products and services, marketing managers must also set policies related to the use of discounts and allowances. There are many different types of price reductions–each designed to accomplish a specific purpose.
Quantity discounts are reductions in base price given as the result of a buyer purchasing some predetermined quantity of merchandise. A noncumulative quantity discount applies to each purchase and is intended to encourage buyers to make larger purchases. This means that the buyer holds the excess merchandise until it is used, possibly cutting the inventory cost of the seller and preventing the buyer from switching to a competitor at least until the stock is used. A cumulative quantity discount applies to the total bought over a period of time. The buyer adds to the potential discount with each additional purchase. Such a policy helps to build repeat purchases. Building material dealers, for example, find such a policy quite useful in encouraging builders to concentrate their purchase with one dealer and to continue with the same dealer over time. It should be noted that such cumulative quantity discounts are extremely difficult to defend if attacked in the courts.
AD 1: A rebate can be very effective price discount
Seasonal discounts are price reductions given or out-of-season merchandise. An example would be a discount on snowmobiles during the summer. The intention of such discounts is to spread demand over the year. This can allow fuller use of production facilities and improved cash flow during the year. Electric power companies use the logic of seasonal discounts to encourage customers to shift consumption to off-peak periods. Since these companies must have production capacity to meet peak demands, the lowering of the peak can lessen the generating capacity required.
Cash discounts are reductions on base price given to customers for paying cash or within some short time period. For example, a 2 per cent discount on bills paid within 10 days is a cash discount. The purpose is generally to accelerate the cash flow of the organization.
Trade discounts are price reductions given to middlemen (e.g. wholesalers, industrial distributors, retailers) to encourage them to stock and give preferred treatment to an organization's products. For example, a consumer goods company may give a retailer a 20 per cent discount to place a larger order for soap. Such a discount might also be used to gain shelf space or a preferred position in the store.
Personal allowances are similar devices aimed at middlemen. Their purpose is to encourage middlemen to aggressively promote the organization's products. For example, a furniture manufacturer may offer to pay some specified amount toward a retailer's advertising expenses if the retailer agrees to include the manufacturer's brand name in the ads.
Beam me up, Scotty!
You remember William Shatner, a.k.a. Captain James T Kirk. As Kirk, he represented the epitome of integrity and professionalism. Death was better than compromise. Yet, here he is doing rather strange TV ads for Priceline.com Inc. Why? Probably because he is being paid a ton of money, and he is having fun. Working for an apparent winner is also exciting.
We say "apparent" because transferring Priceline's patented "name your own price" system of selling airline tickets, groceries, cars, gasoline, telephone minutes, and a raft of other products is proving quite difficult. Complicating matters, several airlines and hotels are studying whether to launch Web services that could cut the legs out from under Priceline's established travel businesses.
Priceline could soon face stiff competition from its own suppliers. Hyatt, Marriott, Starwood, and Cendant–most of which sell excess hotel rooms through Priceline–are having serious discussions about starting their own company to distribute over the Internet. Essentially, these chains worry that by handing sales to Priceline, they could lose control of their customers. Several airlines have the same concerns.
To stay one step ahead, Priceline has decided to introduce 18 new products. Initially, Priceline generated 90 per cent of its revenues from airline tickets, rental cars, and hotel rooms. By 2003, Priceline estimates that only 50 per cent of revenues will come from these sources.
By June 2000, users were able to name their price for long distance phone service, gasoline, and cruises. At the end of 2000, Priceline.com started selling blocks of long-distance phone time to small companies. Later, it will offer them ad space, freight services, and office equipment. New joint ventures are in the works with companies in Hong Kong, Australia, Japan, Europe, and Latin America.
Executives at Priceline say they are on the right track and that they are building a broad-based discounting powerhouse.
Some manufacturers or wholesalers also give prize money called spiffs for retailers to pass on to the retailer's sales clerks for aggressively selling certain items. This is especially common in the electronics and clothing industries, where it is used primarily with new products, slow movers, or high margin items.
Trade-in allowances also reduce the base price of a product or service. These are often used to allow the seller to negotiate the best price with a buyer. The trade-in may, of course, be of value if it can be resold. Accepting trade-ins is necessary in marketing many types of products. A construction company with a used grader worth USD 70,000 would not likely buy a new model from an equipment company that did not accept trade-ins, particularly when other companies do accept them.
1. Sources: Pamela L. Moore, "Name Your Price-For Everything?" Business Week, April 17,2000, pp. 72-75; "Priceline.com to Let Callers Name Price," Los Angeles Times, Nov. 9, 1999, p. 3; "Priceline to offer auto insurance," Wall Street Journal Aug. 3, 2000, p. J2; "Priceline teams up with 3 phone co to sell long distance," Wall Street Journal, May 2000, p. 16.