The holidays may bring warm fuzzies to consumers across the U.S., but retailers mean business during the crucial sales months of November and December.
Many retailers will match many competitors’ prices in an effort to grab sales from the competition, including e-commerce behemoth Amazon.com Inc’s (No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 500) prices, an Internet Retailer analysis of several e-retailers finds. In fact, many retailers match the prices of other retailers all year long. However, deal-seeking shoppers would be wise to read the fine print of the policies. Meanwhile, some retail industry experts say price matching might not be the best strategy to capture sales over the holidays.
Price is top-of-mind for consumers and retailers this holiday season, according to the 2017 Retail CxO Holiday Survey Report from consulting firm BDO USA LLP. That report includes data from a survey of 1,020 U.S. adults and from phone interviews with 100 retail CEOs, chief information officers and chief operating officers in September and October. Both groups project sales and discounts to be the most attractive sales trigger, followed by free shipping. 54% of surveyed consumers plan to buy based on sales and discounts over the holidays, and over two-thirds (68%) of retailers say price competition will be their greatest holiday challenge this year.
What’s more, 44% of shoppers plan to take advantage of price matching this holiday season, according to a 2017 holiday survey from Deloitte LLP.
Toy retailer Toys R Us Inc. (No. 38) announced earlier this month its “new and improved” price match promise which guarantees that it will match the price if a customer finds a toy or baby item advertised at a lower price at another store. However, a closer look at the FAQs surrounding the policy shows that the retailer will not match prices from Amazon.com marketplace sellers or the prices of any other marketplace sellers, such as those on eBay.com. It also will not match prices on Jet.com. And it won’t match advertised store or online pricing Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. “As is common with most retailers and in years past, Toys R Us does not price match during Black Friday and Cyber Week due to already offering deep discounts on hundreds of items,” a spokeswoman for Toys R Us says. “The service will be available again beginning December 1 at 6 a.m. local time through the rest of the holiday season.” This year, if a customer finds a toy advertised at a lower price at another store Toys R Us will donate $1 to the Marine Toys For Tots Foundation up to $1 million.
The Home Depot Inc. (No. 8), price matches every day much like several other retailers analyzed by Internet Retailer, including during the holidays and including price matching with Amazon. “We price scrape millions of items each day across competitors to make sure we have the best price and then automatically adjust it on HomeDepot.com,” a Home Depot spokeswoman says. “That price is then reflected in-store because we match both online and in-store pricing. If a customer finds a lower price on an identical item, we will match that.”
For online purchases, Home Depot’s price match policy includes the price of the items plus the shipping cost. To qualify for price matching, items must be available from a competitor to ship to customer’s location. In stores, if a shopper finds a current lower price on an identical, in-stock item from any retailer, The Home Depot will match the price and beat it by 10%. A shopper must bring the ad, printout or photo to the register for validation. Online purchases are not eligible for the 10% discount.
When it comes to pricing, 78% of shoppers think it is fair to use data science to increase and decrease prices as long as they are presented with prices they’re willing to pay, according a consumer study by Forrester Research commissioned by promotion and markdown strategy vendor Revionics.
Shoppers’ perception of price is as important as price itself, says Cheryl Sullivan, chief marketing and strategy officer for Revionics. The Forrester/Revionics research finds that only 17% of shoppers demand price-matching, she says.
“Getting to the center of the shopper psyche is critical to a successful pricing strategy,” Sullivan says. “Shoppers attribute their loyalty to Amazon to trusted pricing. This is because Amazon has mastered the perception of price.” In reality, she says Amazon uses data science to balance price decreases as well as price increases, depending on the shopper’s price sensitivity by specific categories and products. “During the holiday you will see aggressive price decreases for key holiday categories such as electronics, toys, and outdoor equipment. However, what shoppers likely won’t notice are the significant price increases on other products in Amazon’s 300-million-item assortment, where shoppers have a low sensitivity level and are willing to pay more without question,” she says.
Another key Amazon strategy this season is reduced price transparency due to dynamic pricing, or frequent price changes, she adds. Some of Amazon’s key competitors are also using this approach. “Walmart, Jet.com, and Overstock are increasing their price change frequencies as well and are slowly removing Amazon’s competitive advantage here, making it harder for shoppers to effectively compare prices in a highly dynamic environment,” she says. Smart retailers, she says, are using dynamic pricing to make consumers think they are getting a low price. For example, a retailer might increase a product’s price and then offer a one-day discount or sale. “Advanced pricing algorithms today can learn as market and shopper behaviors change,” she says.
Beyond using dynamic pricing and price matching with Amazon, retailers are also tasked with the challenge of getting customers to visit their sites instead of starting their shopping searches on Amazon. Visits to Amazon.com from Nov. 1-11 grew 12.8%, compared with the same period a year earlier. Amazon racked up 970.8 million visits during that period. In fact, Amazon’s share of total visits to 100 holiday-focused sites analyzed by Internet Retailer has increased so far this year to 50.8% of all visits, compared with 48.3% in 2016. Click here for a list of all 100 sites analyzed for this report.
26% of shoppers say they plan to purchase a majority of their gifts on Amazon, according to the 2017 Retail CxO Holiday Survey Report. The report also finds that 36% of executives surveyed view Amazon as their largest competitor for holiday sales. Interestingly, nearly half (43%) of chief information officers see Amazon as their main competitor—a higher percentage than the other executives.
72% of online shoppers visit Amazon to shop and research products before they make a purchase, according to an August survey of 3,100 consumers in the United States, Germany, United Kingdom and France on behalf of digital marketing vendor Kenshoo Ltd. And 22% of consumers will click and buy on Amazon without visiting another site if they find what they’re looking for on the marketplace, Kenshoo finds.
Other retailers price matching with Amazon in some form, according to Internet Retailer’s analysis of 100 large, holiday-focused online retailers, along with additional details include:
- Bass Pro Shops (No. 125)
- Bed Bath and Beyond: (No. 68) Will not match prices of Amazon marketplace sellers. Manufacturer and model numbers must be exact.
- Best Buy Co Inc. (No. 10)
- Hayneedle.com (owned by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. No. 3) Will match prices at Amazon, Crate & Barrel, Jet.com, Overstock.com, Pottery Barn, Wayfair and West Elm.
- JCP.com (No. 33) Matches prices year-round on almost all competitors on almost all items. Matches prices on Amazon for items sold by Amazon, but not marketplace sellers.
- Petco.com (No. 109)
- Pottery Barn Kids (Williams Sonoma No. 23) Matches the prices of designated new products sold by Amazon or sold on Amazon by the manufacturer, Giggle, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, Buy Buy Baby, Neiman Marcus, Pish Posh Baby, The Tot, and Target.
- Sears.com (No. 19)
- Target.com (No. 20)
- Walmart.com (No. 3) Will not match prices of Amazon or WalMart marketplace sellers. The item must be in-stock at the online retailer’s website and on Walmart.com at the time of the price match request. Will price match one item per customer per day.