What are the Factors Influencing Pricing Decisions in a Market?

2. Marketing Mix Strategy:

Price of a product or service is highly influenced by other elements of marketing mix. The product life cycle through which the product is passing through, or the kind of sale (lease versus overnight purchase, or liberal returns policy may be followed). In the introductory product life cycle or liberal returns policy, the price is likely to be high. If the product requires services and those services are to be provided free, naturally the product will be highly priced.

The channels of Distribution, location of warehousing and the transportation involved also influence the price determination. Direct to the customer may enable the manufacturer to charge a lower price, but selling through many intermediaries mean the final price is to be very high to compensate the efforts of intermediaries.

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Promotion efforts reflect into final price. The amount of money spent by, Coke and Pepsi, HUL or Proctor & Gamble reflect in the prices to be charged. If the intermediaries are to undertake promotion work, they will be charged a lower price and vice versa.

3. Costs:

Cost of a product is the single most important factor to influence the final price. Six steps need to be identified while evaluating cost-price structure:

i. Define the existing price structure;

ii. Identify the prices of competing products for each item in the product line;

iii. Decide which product items need attention;

iv. Calculate the profitability of the current product/service mix;

v. Identify products and services for price changes; and

vi. Define the new price structure in the company.

4. Organizational considerations:

All the marketers are to make profit. Profit is a function of costs, demand, and revenue. Hence their relationship must be understood by pricing managers. The costs may be fixed costs and variable costs. Break-even analysis is one unique technique to understand relationship between cost and price.

External Factors:

1. Nature of the market and demand:

What is the expectation of the market about the product or services? What is the demand level for the product at different prices?

Market must also be understood whether there is monopoly, perfect competition, oligopoly, monopolistic competition or duopoly.

To understand demand, the supplier or marketer prepares demand curves for the product at different prices. The marketer prepares separate curves for normal products and prestige goods. In addition to understanding price and quantity relationship, the marketer must determine the price elasticity of demand to understand price sensitivity of customers.

2. Competition:

There might be pure competition (Many buyers and Sellers Who Have Little Effect on the Price), Monopolistic Competition (Many Buyers and Sellers Who Trade over a Range of Prices), Oligopolistic Competition (Few Sellers Who Are Sensitive to Each Other’s Pricing/ Marketing Strategies), or Pure Monopoly (Single Seller) and in each situation price determination will be different.

The competition may arise from different sources: Directly similar products like Coke and Pepsi, available substitutes speed post versus couriers, or unrelated products seeking the same rupee cricket match versus cinema, coke versus juice, new year dinner versus vacation for three days, etc.

Though many customers have poor price knowledge, yet retailers can’t charge more than the competitors. Retailers often give price guarantees either by way of price-matching policies (prices will not be higher than the prices charged by other retailers) or best price policies (protecting customers against future discounts). Four strategic options are available to a firm: Build (price lower than the competition), Hold (reduce price if competitor reduces), Harvest (much greater resistance to match price cuts for the products that are being harvested), and Responsive (repositioning to force change in price).

3. Other Environmental Factors (economy, resellers, & government):

Economic Conditions, Reseller Needs, Government Actions, Social Concerns do play an important role in price fixation.

Inflation in economy is an important factor in pricing. In India during the last two years the inflation has been a great burden on the common man and even the government has failed to do anything. During recessionary conditions, the price level also drops, to maintain the same level of turnover. Presently due to increased interest rate by Reserve Bank of India, the manufacturers have to pay a higher cost of capital which will be reflected in the price to be charged.

Resellers needs are important in price determination. If you remember, petrol pump dealers went on strike a number of times and finally the oil marketing companies had to agree the margin for the resellers. It will naturally reflect in the final price to be charged to the consumers. In some cases, like butter, the retailers have to manage facilities like deep freezers which have both a capital cost and operating cost, the manufacturer will have to provide a larger margin to them.

The needs of intermediaries must be kept in mind otherwise product launches may not be viable. In February 2012, Maruti Suzuki for the first time in a decade increased Dealers’ margin on Petrol Cars by 10% as the sale has been going down and the dealers were earning merely 4% after discounts and freebies. The revision follows the increase in retail prices. Hyundai Motors and Volkswagen offer 7% by way of commission.

Government’s concerns about pricing are reflected in laws and regulations. Government regulations include price controls, import duties, quotas and taxes. Recent decline of rupee value vis-a-vis dollar also affects the prices of imported products or products using imported spares. The volatility in international markets also affects the prices at home.

The oil marketing companies were left with no alternatives except to increase price of petrol, when the oil prices in international markets went up. Public policy influences of the state include the pricing environment (many governments have gone with the winds of inflation – remember, the Sushma Swaraj government of Delhi had to go because of onion price rise). In case of essential drugs the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) regulates the prices. Recent decion of the Government of India to grant compulsory license to Natco Pharma to produce Bayer’s anti-cancer drug could pave the way for cheaper drugs for lifestyle diseases.

4. Willingness to Pay:

Knowledge of consumers’ reservation price (“the price at which a consumer is indifferent between buying and not buying the product”) or willingness to pay (“reservation price at which the consumer’s utility begins to exceed the utility of the most preferred item”) is central to any pricing decision. Willingness to pay is important not only for pricing but equally important for new product development, value audits and competitive strategy.

Knowledge of consumers’ reservation prices also allows marketer to understand three demand effects due to change in price – the customer switching effect, the cannibalisation effect (when consumers derive more surplus from a new product offering than from the existing products, and the market expansion effect (non-category buyers now derive more positive surplus from the new offering).

5. Product Line Differentiation:

For vertically differentiated product lines, companies are able to charge higher prices. Companies often add a high price product into the line to increase the demand for a product with middle-level price. For products in a horizontally differentiated product line tend to be uniform. Retailers charge the same for different flavours of yogurts, same price for clothes of different sizes. All the car manufacturers have different prices to cater to different market segments, namely economy cars, family saloons, executive cars, and so on.

6. Positioning Strategy:

Positioning strategy involves the choice of target market and the creation of a differential advantage. Price can be used to convey this differential advantage and to appeal to a certain market segment. Price is a powerful positioning tool for many people as an indicator of quality, especially in products like drinks, perfume, and services where quality can’t be assessed before consumption.

7. New Product Launch Strategy:

While launching new products, price should be carefully aligned with promotional strategy. High price and high promotion is called a rapid skimming strategy. One company that uses skimming strategy effectively is Bosch. Its skimming Price Policy is supported by a large number of patents, to its launch of fuel injection and anti-lock brake systems. High price (skimming) and low price (penetration) may be appropriate in different situations.