On Your Side
Constant price changes frustrating to online customers
While shopping online recently, Amy Shoaff noticed prices for the same item, on the same website changed substantially throughout the day.
"General everyday items fluctuating anywhere from 40 to 300 dollars," Amy says.
Amy discovered a growing new trend. Some retailers are changing their online prices hour by hour, and sometimes even minute by minute! The goal is to have a product priced so it pops up as the lowest priced item in shopping search engines, or Amazon's coveted 'Buy Box'. That's where most consumers look to find the best deals.
Chris Buckingham is with the Professional Pricing Society. He explains, "It's more a battle of getting the right screen position as opposed to trying to sell it as quickly as possible."
We worked with decide.com to monitor prices of several items on a well known shopping website. First--an iPad. At midnight the iPad was $511. At 6 a.m. it was $503. By 7 a.m. the price sank to $475, where it remained until 2:30 p.m. and then jumped to $510. At 10 p.m. the iPad increased to a high of $529. That's a total of a $54 price difference on the same site... all in one 24-hour period.
"The suppliers are constantly monitoring each other," Buckingham explains.
Decide.com's tracking software found the price of colored pencils ranged from a high of $3.32 to $2.22 over a 24-hour period.
Duct tape: In one day the price ranged from a high of $7.83 to a low of $2.00.
Eric Best is with Mercent Software Comany. He says, "What has changed fundamentally in the past 12 months is the speed and scale at which prices are being set."
Some retailers hire companies such as Mercent to monitor the prices of its products and make changes based on its competitors.
"Because consumers now are researching their offline and online purchases in advance more than 50% of the time," Best suggests.
There are websites which will monitor prices for items you want and alert you when the price drops, or reaches an amount you'd be willing to pay. If you add an item to your Amazon shopping cart and leave it there, Amazon will notify you of price changes.
Amy some advice about clicking on the least expensive deal found on search engines, though. She warns, "Free shipping, returns, make sure you're using those things to your advantage because sometimes just price isn't always the cheapest."
What product's prices fluctuate the most? Decide.com says: Electronics, appliances, clothing, shoes, jewelry and even household staples, like dust pans.
Some experts suggest if you ordered something from a retailer and the price dropped within a reasonable amount of time, contact the business and see if they'll refund you the difference.