It’s a simple fact of life. People pay different prices for the very same products. Business travelers pay much more to get to the same destination than leisure travelers. A car dealer may charge an elderly lady thousands more than an internet-savvy young couple for the exact same car.
But did you know online retailers do the same thing? They search for hidden clues that will help them predict how much we might be willing to spend. Because of this, customers are offered different prices and discounts on the very same items.
Take the recent revelation by Orbitz. The online travel agent discovered that visitors to its site using a Mac computer spent 30% more a night on hotels. As a result, the company is now starting to show it’s Mac users different, and often costlier travel packages, than Windows users might see.
And your computer operating system is just one of the many pieces of data online retailers use. As the Economist magazine explains:
Online shoppers let slip plenty of information about themselves that could be of use to crafty salesmen. Cookies reveal where else they have been browsing, allowing some guesses about their income bracket, age and sex. Their internet address can often be matched to their physical address: the richer the neighbourhood, the deeper the pockets, it may be assumed.
If you enter a retailer’s site by way of a comparison shopping search engine, you’re likely to get charged a lower price. But as Gilon Miller of Upstream Commerce points out, if a customer happens upon a retailer’s site as a result of seeing a review about the retailer, the review may prime the customer to tolerate the higher prices the web retailer may serve him.
If the same shopper types the URL directly into their browser, Miller suggests the shopper knows the retailer and the product. As a result the retailer may charge a higher price because they understand the customer is ready to purchase or the customer has a strong loyalty to the web retailer.
While most people think it is illegal for online websites to price discriminate by charging different prices to different customers, the tactic is fair game as long as retailers don’t use things like race, religion, national origin or gender in determining the prices for their customers.
To get the best prices online it may pay to act like a bargain shopper. Arrive by way of a shopping search engine and use a Windows based computer when shopping online.
And don’t be too quick to go from home page to the product page. This may clue in the retailer that you’re anxious to buy, resulting in higher prices.
Don’t forget to look for coupon codes on the internet. A good place to start is by typing the retailer’s name and the product you’re looking for into Google along with the words “online coupon code.”
Finally, if you have access to more than one computer, check out the prices on one of the computers after clearing the cookies from your browser.
Cookies are little pieces of data stored by your computer that allow retailers to track your web usage patterns. You may be offered a higher or lower price depending on how the particular retailer uses this information.
BMWK, How do you feel about online retailers using information to alter the price they offer you? What strategies do you use to find the cheapest prices online?
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