If we consider the three approaches to setting price, cost-based is focused entirely on the perspective of the company with very little concern for the customer; demand-based is focused on the customer, but only as a predictor of sales; and value-based pricing focuses entirely on the customer as a determinant of the total price/value package. Marketers who employ value-based pricing might use the following definition: "It is what you think your product is worth to that customer at that time." Moreover, it acknowledges several marketing/price truths:
- To the customer, price is the only unpleasant part of buying.
- Price is the easiest marketing tool to copy.
- Price represents everything about the product.
Still, value-based pricing is not altruistic. It asks and answers two questions : (a) what is the highest price I can charge and still make the sale? and (b) am I willing to sell at that price? The first question must take two primary factors in to account: customers and competitors. The second question is influenced by two more: costs and constraints. Let us discuss each briefly.
Many customer-related factors are important in value-based pricing. For example, it is critical to understand the customer buying process. How important is price? When is it considered? How is it used? Another factor is the cost of switching. Have you ever watched the television program "The Price is Right"? If you have, you know that most consumers have poor price knowledge. Moreover, their knowledge of comparable prices within a product category—e.g. ketchup—is typically worse. So price knowledge is a relevant factor. Finally, the marketer must assess the customers' price expectations. How much do you expect to pay for a large pizza? Color TV? DVD? Newspaper? Swimming pool? These expectations create a phenomenon called "sticker shock" as exhibited by gasoline, automobiles, and ATM fees.
A second factor influencing value-based pricing is competitors. As noted in earlier chapters, defining competition is not always easy. Of course there are like-category competitors such as Toyota and Nissan. We have already discussed the notion of pricing above, below, and at the same level of these direct competitors. However, there are also indirect competitors that consumers may use to base price comparisons. For instance, we may use the price of a vacation as a basis for buying vacation clothes. The cost of eating out is compared to the cost of groceries. There are also instances when a competitor, especially a market leader, dictates the price for everyone else. Weyerhauser determines the price for lumber. Kellogg establishes the price for cereal.
If you are building a picnic table, it is fairly easy to add up your receipts and calculate costs. For a global corporation, determining costs is a great deal more complex. For example, calculating incremental costs and identifying avoidable costs are valuable tasks. Incremental cost is the cost of producing each additional unit. If the incremental cost begins to exceed the incremental revenue, it is a clear sign to quit producing. Avoidable costs are those that are unnecessary or can be passed onto some other institution in the marketing channel. Adding costly features to a product that the customer cannot use is an example of the former. As to the latter, the banking industry has been passing certain costs onto customers.
Another consideration is opportunity costs. Because the company spent money on store remodeling, they are not able to take advantage of a discounted product purchase. Finally, costs vary from market-to-market as well as quantities sold. Research should be conducted to assess these differences.
Although it would be nice to assume that a business has the freedom to set any price it chooses, this is not always the case. There are a variety of constraints that prohibit such freedom. Some constraints are formal, such as government restrictions in respect to strategies like collusion and price-fixing. This occurs when two or more companies agree to charge the same or very similar prices. Other constraints tend to be informal. Examples include matching the price of competitors, a traditional price charged for a particular product, and charging a price that covers expected costs.
Ultimately, value-based pricing offers the following three tactical recommendations:
- Employ a segmented approach toward price, based on such criteria as customer type, location, and order size.
- Establish highest possible price level and justify it with comparable value.
- Use price as a basis for establishing strong customer relationships.4
Approaches to determining price include:
- cost-plus and mark-ups
- demand-oriented pricing
- value-based approaches to pricing