Internet Discounters: Do you really provide a discount?

Picture of an everyday low prices sign.

Summary: If you are an online discounter, how can you convince customers that you really provide a discount? You can’t expect the customer to trust you. You must provide the customer with evidence either by showing your prices versus competitor prices or by offering a deal so good the customer can’t refute it.

« Super sale!! », « Only One More Left!! » These are phrases we hear all the time. But do customers believe those statements? After hearing overstated hype so often, customers are now skeptical that prices being advertised are really lower than average. If you can convince the customer your prices are good, you are many times more likely to win their business. You don’t want the customer to just window show.

There are two principal ways to convince the customer that you provide a meaningful discount.

  1. Show actual prices of your competitors.
  2. Find one product you can sell so cheap, that customers don’t question your discount.

Showing actual prices from your competitors is effective because such facts can’t be questioned by the consumer. The key is that the company you use as a comparison does not need to be another discounter. You don’t have to convince the customer that you have the best price on the web, you just need to convince the customer that you truly provide a discount. Therefore, if you sale an identical product as a premium retailer such as Nordstrom’s, and you can prove your price is lower, by all means refer to the competitor explicitly. This evidence makes a far stronger statement than your merely stating you provide a discount.

Your second option to convince the customer that you provide a great discount is taken from Walmart’s playbook. Do you remember November 28, 2003 when a Central Florida Walmart offered a DVD player so cheap ($30) that it caused a stampede? Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, began Walmart’s use of this technique to draw in shoppers.

Sam Walton realized that if he offered even one product at an unforgettable price, he could draw in shoppers to shop at his store at an incredible rate. Such outlandish sales accomplished two things. First, it generated publicity and drew in shoppers for higher margin products. Second, it gave Walmart a reliable reputation for low prices.

However, you may be worried that you can’t profit by copying what Walmart has done with success, because while Walmart was selling more than just the $30 DVD player to visiting shoppers, your website tends to sell only one or two products in a single shopping cart.

That’s a valid concern. Your best option here is to try and cross-sell higher margin products or services to make up for margins you lose on your sale.

Nevertheless, if neither of the suggestions in this article seem to work for you, you may need to consider another reality.

You may do well to ask yourself, « Am I really able to provide the customer with a discount? » Some industries are so competitive that it isn’t possible to offer a better price than what your competitors offer. If that is the case, then can you really build a business based on discounting? Sometimes it is wise to consider another business model. For instance trying to be a premium retailer instead of a discounter, essentially becoming a Mercedes of your industry instead of a Kia.

No matter what you end up choosing, be honest with the customer. The worst thing you can do is tell the customer an untruth. If you offer a consistent discount, then by all means state this on your website. However, if you don’t offer a discount, it is best not to lose the customer’s trust by telling him that you, like Walmart, have « Always low prices. »

By being honest and providing evidence that your website’s prices are lower than the competition you will win customer trust, generate buzz, and have a consistently higher sales conversion rate for your website.