As customer expectations increase and competition becomes fiercer, perceptive managers will find innovative strategies to satisfy demanding consumers and establish unique products in the market. Satisfying customers requires the right prices. The internet has delivered pricing power to both buyers and sellers. Another significant trend is the use of one-to-one marketing to create a customized marketing mix for each consumer.
Impact of the Internet on Pricing
The internet, corporate networks, and wireless setups are linking people, machines, and companies around the globe—and connecting sellers and buyers as never before. This link is enabling buyers to quickly and easily compare products and prices, putting them in a better bargaining position. At the same time, the technology enables sellers to collect detailed data about customers’ buying habits, preferences, and even spending limits so that they can tailor their products and prices. Amazon, as well as online businesses from traditional retailers such as Walmart, have drastically changed the retail landscape. Amazon’s Prime membership, which offers free shipping and other amenities for an annual fee, has also taken market share from traditional low-cost warehouse clubs such as Costco and Sam’s Club.1Eugene Kim, “Amazon’s Prime Membership Is Eating into Costco and Sam’s Club’s Territory,” Business Insider, September 26, 2016.
Online price-comparison engines, known as shopbots, are continuing to add new features. ShopSmarter.com now includes coupons and additional retailer discounts in its price results. In the past, consumers had to click deep into a retailer’s site to find out about these additional savings. Vendio eCommerce introduced a toolbar that people can download. If a person is on the web page of a particular product—whether it’s an iPhone or a Canon digital camera—the toolbar flashes a blinking alert when it finds a lower price for that same item somewhere else. The person can then open a window on the side of the site to learn details of the cheaper price—or simply ignore the alert. BuySAFE introduced a website that lets consumers search among about 1.5 million products that are backed by antifraud guarantees. If a buyer purchases one of the items and the seller fails to deliver, the buyer can get reimbursed for the full cost up to $25,000. Merchants on the site include those that sell on eBay and Overstock.com.
Use of these sites has boomed in the past few years as people have become more reliant on the web both as a research tool and as a place to shop. According to a recent survey, more than 90 percent of consumers have used a smartphone when comparison-shopping in stores.2Glenn Taylor, “More than 90% of Consumers Use Smartphones While Shopping in Stores,” Retail Touch Points, August 20, 2015. Much of the growth has come from the more-established sites such as Shopify, Bizrate, and NexTag, as well as the shopping sections of Amazon, Microsoft’s MSN, and Google. The big attraction with shopping comparison services, of course, is the hunt for a better bargain. Merchants like the sites because they help drive consumer spending. Consumers who use comparison-shopping sites for product information or in-store discount coupons spend more than those who don’t.3Daniel Boffey, “Google Price Comparison Site to Compete with Rivals for Top Search Slot,” The Guardian, September 27, 2017.
One-to-one marketing is creating a unique marketing mix for every consumer. The key to creating one-to-one marketing is a good marketing database. The information contained in a marketing database helps managers know and understand customers, and potential customers, on an individual basis. A marketing database is a computerized file of customers’ and potential customers’ profiles and purchase patterns.
In the 1960s, network television enabled advertisers to “get the same message to everyone simultaneously.” Database marketing can get a customized, individual message to everyone simultaneously through direct mail or through the internet. This is why database marketing is sometimes called micromarketing. Database marketing can create a computerized form of the old-fashioned relationship that people used to have with the corner grocer, butcher, or baker. “A database is sort of a collective memory,” says Richard G. Barlow, president of Frequency Marketing, Inc., a Cincinnati-based consulting firm. “It deals with you in the same personalized way as a mom-and-pop grocery store, where they knew customers by name and stocked what they wanted.”
You have also probably heard the term big data. Companies such as Facebook and Google can process information and then tailor information to provide marketers with higher-probability targets. For instance, imagine that you and some friends are discussing a spring break vacation and you are searching for possible locations on the Florida gulf coast. That data, along with the social group considering the vacation, can be sold to companies that provide travel services, airline flights, hotel rentals, and the like. Suddenly, you and your friends see travel offers and alternate destinations on your Facebook page. Likewise, imagine you are looking for a mystery novel to read on a long flight. Let’s say that you are also searching for ways to remove a rust stain on a favorite sweater. When you go to your Amazon page, you see several new mystery novels as well as cleaning solutions highlighted on your page. All of this was done through the use of big data and analytics to provide consumers solutions they are looking for as well as products that they don’t even know that they want. The exhibit below contrasts the differences in approaches in traditional advertising versus targeted marketing using big data.
The size of some databases is impressive: Ford Motor Company’s is about 50 million names; Kraft General Foods, 30 million; Citicorp, 30 million; and Kimberly Clark, maker of Huggies diapers, 10 million new parents. American Express can pull from its database all cardholders who made purchases at golf pro shops in the past six months, who attended symphony concerts, or who traveled to Europe more than once in the past year, as well as the very few people who did all three.
Companies are using their marketing databases to implement one-to-one marketing. For example, Novartis Seeds, Inc., a Minneapolis-based agriculture business, produces individually customized, full-color brochures for 7,000 farmers. Each piece features products selected by Novartis dealers specifically for the farmer based on information collected about the farm operation and the types of crops grown. Instead of the 30-page catalog Novartis traditionally sent, these customers get a one-page brochure with only the five or six products they need, plus other complementary products dealers feel they should consider.
Text adapted from Introduction to Business, OpenStax under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Access for free at https://openstax.org/books/introduction-business/pages/1-introduction