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Pricing Below Competitors

13 May, 2016 - 13:23

While some firms are positioned to price above competition, others wish to carve out a market niche by pricing below competitors. The goal of such a policy is to realize a large sales volume through a lower price and profit margins. By controlling costs and reducing services, these firms are able to earn an acceptable profit, even though profit per unit is usually less.

Such a strategy can be effective if a significant segment of the market is price-sensitive and/or the organization's cost structure is lower than competitors. Costs can be reduced by increased efficiency, economics of scale, or by reducing or eliminating such things as credit, delivery, and advertising. For example, if a firm could replace its field sales force with telemarketing or online access, this function might be performed at lower cost. Such reductions often involve some loss in effectiveness, so the tradeoff must be considered carefully.

Historically, one of the worst outcomes that can result from pricing lower than a competitor is a "price war". Price wars usually occur when a business believes that price-cutting produces increased market share, but does not have a true cost advantage. Price wars are often caused by companies misreading or misunderstanding competitors. Typically, price wars are over reactions to threats that either are not there at all or are not as big as they seem.

Another possible drawback when pricing below competition is the company's inability to raise price or image. A retailer such as K-mart, known as a discount chain, found it impossible to reposition itself as a provider of designer women's clothiers. Can you imagine Swatch selling a USD 3,000 watch?

How can companies cope with the pressure created by reduced prices? Some are redesigning products for ease and speed of manufacturing or reducing costly features that their customers do not value. Other companies are reducing rebates and discounts in favor of stable, everyday low prices (ELP). In all cases, these companies are seeking shelter from pricing pressures that come from the discount mania that has been common in the US for the last two decades.