Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Lower prices plus

This holiday season, consumers are being flooded with so many "price deals" that it is difficult for a business to stand out from competitors.

Economic news is making consumers skittish. It seems that little is certain in the financial arena except that the values of their homes and 401k plans are both down. Bail outs of American business institutions seem to come on a daily basis.

Some good news... Gas prices have dropped by more than half from the summer highs of over $4 per gallon last summer.

The bad news? While nice to have more money left in pocketbooks and wallets after a fill-up, it has not been nearly enough to bolster shaken consumer confidence.

A textbook business response
In an attempt to attract such jittery customers, many businesses have lowered the effective prices on various products by offering sales and coupons. However, since so many retailers are doing the same, buyers have numerous options offering lowered prices. In addition, an environment of intense price competition -- where competitors keep lowering prices to match or beat other stores -- can "teach" consumers to wait to make a purchase. In this type of situation, consumers learn that postponing a purchase results in better (from their perspective) prices by giving retailers more time to keep lowering their prices.

Offering more than just lower prices
Some retailers have started to offer consumers "lower prices plus". The "plus" can be wide ranging -- including higher quality products, more service, better product selection, a better return policy, and so forth. In our lower price retail environment, the purpose of the "plus" is to give prospective buyers a reason to buy from that retailer and even possibly give consumers a reason to buy sooner rather than later.

Currently, Best Buy is doing this.

Best Buy is in a highly competitive market space... they compete with a wide variety of businesses such as Walmart, Costco, national department stores, and local electronics stores. Lower competitive prices are widely used. This retail space is so competitive that former Best Buy competitors Circuit City and CompUSA are either downsizing or are no longer in business.

Best Buy's current television advertising campaign "You, Happier." exemplifies the "plus" strategy. The thirty second spots each feature a "Blue Shirt" (Best Buy employee) sharing a brief story that shows how their product knowledge and empathy for people helps their customers. With Best Buy's assistance, you can be happier. Now that's a "plus".

Example A: Connecting grandpas and grandkids

Example B: Needing the perfect gift

Example C: Great gift ideas

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