September 12, 2018
Many of our customers want to know how they can use variable pricing to support a dynamic discount strategy. Business Consultant and Marketing Expert, Amina Dockrat discusses the ins and outs of variable pricing in action.
Tools such as our WooCommerce Dynamic Discount plugin allow users to make use of variable pricing. Variable pricing is supported by the use of conditional logic.
It is up to the user to set up those rules, either under product attributes or when creating products. A rule is simply telling the WooCommerce platform if this then that e.g. if the customer belongs to this email domain then show that price or if the product type is x, then display that price.
In other words, variable pricing is the ability to apply a discount on a product unit price or an order subtotal depending on one or multiple criteria set up by the shop admin. E.g. apply a 10% discount if the customer purchases a product within a specific category. The plugin will evaluate the criteria and if they are ok, will apply the discount.
If we were to go back to basics, best practice tells us that the 4 P’s of marketing are Product, Place, Price and Promotion. Assuming that you have a great mix of products and you are an online business with an excellent delivery/distribution network, that would take care of product and place. What remains are two elements, namely price and promotion.
Depending on the industry, promotion is often linked to price. We find that these two elements go hand in hand. However, one should bear in mind that in the digital marketing space effective promotion need not eat away at profit margins.
Communication is much more targeted and cost effective than traditional media and customers are more likely to respond to creatively packaged targeted messaging. Customers can be reached by email, through targeted social media campaigns and intelligent re-targeting efforts.
We will show you how smart tools such as variable pricing can ensure that you adjust prices downward only when the expected quantity movement justifies it. Traditionally prices were determined up-front by a pricing committee who conducted market research and determined the best price at which to mark the company’s products.
Prices were usually static except for seasonal promotions, or price increases due to an increase in the price of raw materials, labour, transport or other manufacturer increases.
These days we are faced with a much more price sensitive market place. Prices are becoming more and more prone to variation, hence the need for a dynamic pricing strategy. This can have both advantages and disadvantages for the online retailer.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Variable Pricing
The biggest advantage is increased sales potential. We know that marketing and promotion are all about enticing the customer to buy and this is best achieved through market intelligence i.e. knowing what your competitors are offering, knowing what the customer wants, identifying gaps and filling those gaps, if any.
In an online space it is much easier to understand customers by tracking their online behaviour. Analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, Kissmetrics and Chartbeat will tell you exactly what visitors look at, which pages they visit on how much time they spend on your site.
By studying customer buying patterns (which your sales stats will tell you) you can better analyse the customer’s likes and dislikes. These insights feed back into the product mix, but they also inform our pricing and promotion decisions which can help us to develop a customer journey that results in more purchases more often.
Other advantages of using variable pricing include, the ability to apply rise per size pricing, increasing customer loyalty by offering discounts, implementing stock clearance sales, increasing your customer conversion rate and of course selective pricing.
Example: Asheville Bee Charmer is an online honey retailer who uses rise per size pricing on their Lavender Neck and Eye Pillows. The smaller eye pillow is priced at $15 while the larger neck pillow is priced at $30.
The obvious disadvantage of continuous price promotion is that it stimulates stiff competition and sometimes unsustainable price wars between you and your competitors. This type of aggressive promotion could eventually drive profit margins down.
From the customers perspective, a variable pricing policy can in a few instances be perceived as unreliable but more importantly, constant price promotions may drive the development of a customer base whose loyalty is price based as opposed to being brand based. You will find certain customers who only buy the specials and nothing else.
Creative Discount Opportunities
Variable pricing can be used to support a price-based marketing strategy. There are various reasons you may wish to offer discounts on specific goods.
You may be running a time sensitive campaign and therefore applying a discount which is available for a limited time only such as “Daily Deals”.These time-based campaigns are very effective in creating a sense of urgency around the offer.
New product releases are another opportunity to use variable pricing in order to promote the new product. Alternatively, you may want to clear old stock by offering it at a discounted rate while holding the price of new products.
With variable pricing you can set the product parameters to reflect a discounted price until a certain sales target is reached.
Other times, you could use variable pricing, as a means of staying competitive. Companies who rely heavily on market intelligence monitor demand for their products and adjust prices accordingly. Others monitor customer profiles and offer discounts based on the profiles of specific customer groups.
Here’s a list of some the most popular discount tactics:
Free Gifts: Promotional items like pens, caps, t-shirts, shopping bags, diaries and calendars can be purchased at rock-bottom prices and branded with your company logo and website domain.
While this is the most common scenario, promotional items need not be physical items. They can also be interesting content, such as free e-books. Australian supplement store Max’s offers free workout plans for Gold Club members. Not only do these items enhance your product offering, they are also an excellent branding opportunity.
Free Shipping: Free shipping is the gold standard in e-commerce. This is the one thing that can make your offering more appealing than your competitor’s.
The best model, by far, is drop shipment i.e. having goods delivered directly from the manufacturer to the customer. Unfortunately this is not always possible, but that does not mean that some variation of a free shipping model cannot be implemented.
You could try to work shipping cost into the cost of the item or offer free shipping on orders over a certain value. Sometimes, the offer of free shipping can tip the customers decision to buy.
Proceed cautiously with these types of strategies and make sure that you run your numbers to ensure that the expected rise in sales will not just cover the discount offered but that the campaign is profitable.
You can use free shipping to target customers from a specific region. You therefore have the choice between offering free shipping or a discount on shipping. Click here to find out how to set up a discount on the shipping fee or give a shipping discount under certain conditions.
Percentage Discounts: Another simple yet enticing offer is ten, fifteen or twenty percent off everything. This always grabs the customers attention. The higher the percentage the better. These types of sales are great for clearing end of season stock on fashion items.
Total Order Discount: Another way of scaling a discount is giving higher discounts on higher cart totals. E.g. Ten percent off $200 or more, twenty percent off $500 or more, and so on and so forth.
This makes the customer feel like they have saved more by buying more. While sales goes up so too does customer satisfaction.
Bundled Deals: You could pair items such as a cleanser, moisturiser and toner. Each item costs $15 but together all three can be purchased for $40.
That’s an incremental discount off each item which does not require a deep discount. It also moves less popular items such as toner. It is considered nice to have but non-essential.
This could also be applied to a pair of flip-flops and a beach bag. One goes well with the other. Another variation on bundled deals is the popular buy-two-get-one-free deal. With this you offer three identical items such as t-shirts or underwear (perhaps in different colours) and only pay for two.
Online shirt retailer Twillory is a prime example of bundled sales tactics. Because their items are generic, i.e. they sell only shirts. It makes sense for them to encourage customers to buy more than one item.
As you can see in the example below, the more items that are purchased the lower the unit cost. These low prices are made possible through the savings achieved on shipping more than one item at a time.
Now we have demonstrated how variable pricing can be used to create interest and boost sales. Let’s have a look at a few ways in-which the above tactics can be deployed strategically.
First Time Shoppers
Vouchers for first time shoppers are one of the best ways to get a customer. They will register and make their first purchase. If the customer is happy with the first purchase (product quality, service, communication, billing and delivery). He/she is likely to make future purchases and recommend your store.
There are several clever ways to get customers to make their first purchase, one of which includes free shipping off the first purchase. Click here to find out how to apply a discount on the first customer order.
Fifty-two percent of consumers surveyed indicated that they appreciate personalised communication. Email marketing is therefore essential to online sales.
Building a strong mailing list of interested customers makes marketing a breeze and drastically reduces the cost of advertising. You can grow your mailing list by offering a discount for signing up to your newsletter. A very popular practice is to use a pop-up for this purpose.
There are a number of free pop-up plugins available for WordPress. Click here to find out how to create a discount for all MailChimp or SendinBlue subscribers
Abandoned carts are another highly fruitful category to target with discounts. There are various stats giving reasons as to why customers abandon carts. Prohibitive shipping costs, lack of secure payment gateway and poor delivery information are some of the reasons.
One of the best way to grab sales before it is lost is to send the customer an email notifying them of a discount on an item you know they are interested in.
Affiliates and Referrals
You could also offer discounts on affiliate or referred purchases. Often these purchases originate with a product review.
Industry experts such as fashion bloggers, food and culinary experts or DIY gurus often test products and write reviews on their blogs.
Their followers then click through to the commercial retailer with the affiliate earning a commission. AffiliateWP allows you to offer a discount on products on the referring party’s website. Click here to find out how to set up a discount for anyone who follows an affiliate link.
Social Media Optimization
You can use social media to reach a wider and more targeted audience. Anything “Instagrammable” i.e. nice to look at, can be posted on your store’s Instagram account.
Mini Learners specializes in prints for kids bedrooms. They showcase their products in actual kids nurseries and post the images online.
Mini Learners also makes use of Free Shipping and Discount Coupons.
Using social media to market your business is not exclusively for the lifestyle industry. Almost any business can offer discounts or coupons to customers who agree to like their brand, product or special offer.
This will build brand awareness amongst your customer’s social network. To fully optimize social media you need to grow your stores social media following.
By offering exclusive deals through this medium you can entice potential customers to follow you on Facebook and/or Instagram.Click here to find out how to setup a discount for anyone who shared a post or is following you on Facebook or Instagram.
Rewarding customer loyalty has always been a great marketing tool. These days it is far easier to implement than ever before. It can be as simple as offering free delivery on the customer’s third or fifth purchase or a free gift after the tenth purchase, etc. In the example above, Max’s offers free content, rewards and special offers for Gold Club members.
Variable pricing allows you to be as creative as you like, to run campaign after campaign using different tactics until you find the right combination of elements to entice customers to buy.
Some of the best tips are:
-Ensure that campaigns are measurable
-Try a variety of tactics at regular intervals to see what works best
Implementing variable pricing on WooCommerce is really simple. It’s all about applying the right parameters. Using a plugin such as WooCommerce All Discounts, gives you unlimited ways to do so.
We hope that you have found this article helpful and would love to hear your thoughts. For any comments, questions or remarks please use the comment box below.