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Factors Affecting Pricing Decision

We look at factors that affect how marketers set price. The final price for a product may be influenced by many factors which can be categorized into two main groups:

Internal Factors - When setting price, marketers must take into consideration several factors which are the result of company decisions and actions. To a large extent these factors are controllable by the company and, if necessary, can be altered. However, while the organization may have control over these factors making a quick change is not always realistic. For instance, product pricing may depend heavily on the productivity of a manufacturing facility (e.g., how much can be produced within a certain period of time). The marketer knows that increasing productivity can reduce the cost of producing each product and thus allow the marketer to potentially lower the product’s price. But increasing productivity may require major changes at the manufacturing facility that will take time (not to mention be costly) and will not translate into lower price products for a considerable period of time.

External Factors - There are a number of influencing factors which are not controlled by the company but will impact pricing decisions. Understanding these factors requires the marketer conduct research to monitor what is happening in each market the company serves since the effect of these factors can vary by market.

Below we provide a detailed discussion of both internal and external factors.

Internal Factors: Marketing Objectives

Marketing decisions are guided by the overall objectives of the company. While we will discuss this in more detail when we cover marketing strategy in a later tutorial, for now it is important to understand that all marketing decisions, including price, work to help achieve company objectives.

Corporate objectives can be wide-ranging and include different objectives for different functional areas (e.g., objectives for production, human resources, etc). While pricing decisions are influenced by many types of objectives set up for the marketing functional area, there are four key objectives in which price plays a central role. In most situations only one of these objectives will be followed, though the marketer may have different objectives for different products. The four main marketing objectives affecting price include:

Return on Investment (ROI) – A firm may set as a marketing objective the requirement that all products attain a certain percentage return on the organization’s spending on marketing the product. This level of return along with an estimate of sales will help determine appropriate pricing levels needed to meet the ROI objective.

(Pricing to attain a specified rate of return on the company’s investment is a profit \- related pricing objective. Most pricing objectives based on return on investment (ROI) are achieved by trial and error, because not all cost and revenue data needed to project the return on investment are available when prices are set. Dibb, S., Simkin, L., Pride, W., Ferrel, O.C..)

Cash Flow – Firms may seek to set prices at a level that will insure that sales revenue will at least cover product production and marketing costs. This is most likely to occur with new products where the organizational objectives allow a new product to simply meet its expenses while efforts are made to establish the product in the market. This objective allows the marketer to worry less about product profitability and instead directs energies to building a market for the product.

( Some companies set prices to recover cash as fast as possible, especially when a short product life cycle is anticipated or the capital spent to develop products needs to be recovered quickly. However, the use of cash flow and recovery as an objective oversimplifies the value of price in contributing to profits. A disadvantage of this pricing objective could be high prices, which might allow competitors with lower prices to gain a large share of the market. Dibb, S., Simkin, L., Pride, W., Ferrel, O.C..)

Market Share – The pricing decision may be important when the firm has an objective of gaining a hold in a new market or retaining a certain percent of an existing market. For new products under this objective the price is set artificially low in order to capture a sizeable portion of the market and will be increased as the product becomes more accepted by the target market (we will discuss this marketing strategy in further detail in our next tutorial). For existing products, firms may use price decisions to insure they retain market share in instances where there is a high level of market competition and competitors who are willing to compete on price.

( many companies establish pricing objectives to maintain or increase a product’s market share in relation to total industry sales. Maintaining or increasing market share need not depend on growth in industry sales. A company can increase its market share even though sales for the total industry are decreasing. On the other hand, if the overall market is growing, a business’s sales volume may actually increase as its market share decreases. Dibb, S., Simkin, L., Pride, W., Ferrel, O.C..)

Maximize Profits – Older products that appeal to a market that is no longer growing may have a company objective requiring the price be set at a level that optimizes profits. This is often the case when the marketer has little incentive to introduce improvements to the product (e.g., demand for product is declining) and will continue to sell the same product at a price premium for as long as some in the market is willing to buy.

(Although businesses often claim they aim to maximise profits, in practice this objective is difficult to measure. As a result, Profit objectives tend to be set as satisfactory levels. Specific profit objectives may be stated in terms of actual monetary amounts or in terms of percentage change relative to previous profits. Dibb, S., Simkin, L., Pride, W., Ferrel, O.C..)

Internal Factors: Marketing Strategy

Marketing strategy concerns the decisions marketers make to help the company satisfy its target market and attain its business and marketing objectives. Price, of course, is one of the key marketing mix decisions and since all marketing mix decisions must work together, the final price will be impacted by how other marketing decisions are made. For instance, marketers selling high quality products would be expected to price their products in a range that will add to the perception of the product being at a high-level.

It should be noted that not all companies view price as a key selling feature. Some firms, for example those seeking to be viewed as market leaders in product quality, will deemphasize price and concentrate on a strategy that highlights non-price benefits (e.g., quality, durability, service, etc.). Such non-price competition can help the company avoid potential price wars that often break out between competitive firms that follow a market share objective and use price as a key selling feature.

Price, is one of the key marketing mix decisions and since all marketing mix decisions must work together, the final price will be impacted by how other marketing decisions are made.

Price is the amount of money customers have to pay to obtain the product

Internal Factors: Costs

For many for-profit companies, the starting point for setting a product’s price is to first determine how much it will cost to get the product to their customers. Obviously, whatever price customers pay must exceed the cost of producing a good or delivering a service otherwise the company will lose money.

When analyzing cost, the marketer will consider all costs needed to get the product to market including those associated with production, marketing, distribution and company administration (e.g., office expense). These costs can be divided into two main categories:

Fixed Costs - Also referred to as overhead costs, these represent costs the marketing organization incurs that are not affected by level of production or sales. For example, for a manufacturer of writing instruments that has just built a new production facility, whether they produce one pen or one million they will still need to pay the monthly mortgage for the building. From the marketing side, fixed costs may also exist in the form of expenditure for fielding a sales force, carrying out an advertising campaign and paying a service to host the company’s website. These costs are fixed because there is a level of commitment to spending that is largely not affected by production or sales levels.

Variable Costs – These costs are directly associated with the production and sales of products and, consequently, may change as the level of production or sales changes. Typically variable costs are evaluated on a per-unit basis since the cost is directly associated with individual items. Most variable costs involve costs of items that are either components of the product (e.g., parts, packaging) or are directly associated with creating the product (e.g., electricity to run an assembly line). However, there are also marketing variable costs such as coupons, which are likely to cost the company more as sales increase (i.e., customers using the coupon). Variable costs, especially for tangible products, tend to decline as more units are produced. This is due to the producing company’s ability to purchase product components for lower prices since component suppliers often provide discounted pricing for large quantity purchases.

Total Cost ….

Determining individual unit cost can be a complicated process. While variable costs are often determined on a per-unit basis, applying fixed costs to individual products is less straightforward. For example, if a company manufactures five different products in one manufacturing plant how would it distribute the plant’s fixed costs (e.g., mortgage, production workers’ cost) over the five products? In general, a company will assign fixed cost to individual products if the company can clearly associate the cost with the product, such as assigning the cost of operating production machines based on how much time it takes to produce each item. Alternatively, if it is too difficult to associate to specific products the company may simply divide the total fixed cost by production of each item and assign it on percentage basis.

External Factors: Elasticity of Demand

Marketers should never rest on their marketing decisions. They must continually use market research and their own judgment to determine whether marketing decisions need to be adjusted. When it comes to adjusting price, the marketer must understand what effect a change in price is likely to have on target market demand for a product.

Understanding how price changes impact the market requires the marketer have a firm understanding of the concept economists call elasticity of demand, which relates to how purchase quantity changes as prices change. Elasticity is evaluated under the assumption that no other changes are being made (i.e., “all things being equal”) and only price is adjusted. The logic is to see how price by itself will affect overall demand. Obviously, the chance of nothing else changing in the market but the price of one product is often unrealistic. For example, competitors may react to the marketer’s price change by changing the price on their product. Despite this, elasticity analysis does serve as a useful tool for estimating market reaction.

Elasticity deals with three types of demand scenarios:

Elastic Demand – Products are considered to exist in a market that exhibits elastic demand when a certain percentage change in price results in a larger and opposite percentage change in demand. For example, if the price of a product increases (decreases) by 10%, the demand for the product is likely to decline (rise) by greater than 10%.

Inelastic Demand – Products are considered to exist in an inelastic market when a certain percentage change in price results in a smaller and opposite percentage change in demand. For example, if the price of a product increases (decreases) by 10%, the demand for the product is likely to decline (rise) by less than 10%.

Unitary Demand – This demand occurs when a percentage change in price results in an equal and opposite percentage change in demand. For example, if the price of a product increases (decreases) by 10%, the demand for the product is likely to decline (rise) by 10%.

For marketers the important issue with elasticity of demand is to understand how it impacts company revenue. In general the following scenarios apply to making price changes for a given type of market demand:

For elastic markets – increasing price lowers total revenue while decreasing price increases total revenue.

For inelastic markets – increasing price raises total revenue while decreasing price lowers total revenue.

For unitary markets – there is no change in revenue when price is changed.

External Factors: Customer Expectations

Possibly the most obvious external factors that influence price setting are the expectations of customers and channel partners. As we discussed, when it comes to making a purchase decision customers assess the overall “value” of a product much more than they assess the price. When deciding on a price marketers need to conduct customer research to determine what “price points” are acceptable. Pricing beyond these price points could discourage customers from purchasing.

Firms within the marketer’s channels of distribution also must be considered when determining price. Distribution partners expect to receive financial compensation for their efforts, which usually means they will receive a percentage of the final selling price. This percentage or margin between what they pay the marketer to acquire the product and the price they charge their customers must be sufficient for the distributor to cover their costs and also earn a desired profit.

External Factors: Competitive and Other Products

Marketers will undoubtedly look to market competitors for indications of how price should be set. For many marketers of consumer products researching competitive pricing is relatively easy, particularly when Internet search tools are used. Price analysis can be somewhat more complicated for products sold to the business market since final price may be affected by a number of factors including if competitors allow customers to negotiate their final price.

Analysis of competition will include pricing by direct competitors, related products and primary products.

Direct Competitor Pricing – Almost all marketing decisions, including pricing, will include an evaluation of competitors’ offerings. The impact of this information on the actual setting of price will depend on the competitive nature of the market. For instance, products that dominate markets and are viewed as market leaders may not be heavily influenced by competitor pricing since they are in a commanding position to set prices as they see fit. On the other hand in markets where a clear leader does not exist, the pricing of competitive products will be carefully considered. Marketers must not only research competitive prices but must also pay close attention to how these companies will respond to the marketer’s pricing decisions. For instance, in highly competitive industries, such as gasoline or airline travel, competitors may respond quickly to competitors’ price adjustments thus reducing the effect of such changes.

Related Product Pricing - Products that offer new ways for solving customer needs may look to pricing of products that customers are currently using even though these other products may not appear to be direct competitors. For example, a marketer of a new online golf instruction service that allows customers to access golf instruction via their computer may look at prices charged by local golf professionals for in-person instruction to gauge where to set their price. While on the surface online golf instruction may not be a direct competitor to a golf instructor, marketers for the online service can use the cost of in-person instruction as a reference point for setting price.

Primary Product Pricing - As we discussed in the Product Decisions tutorial, marketers may sell products viewed as complementary to a primary product. For example, Bluetooth headsets are considered complementary to the primary product cellphones. The pricing of complementary products may be affected by pricing changes made to the primary product since customers may compare the price for complementary products based on the primary product price. For example, companies that sell accessory products for the Apple iPod may do so at a cost that is only 10% of the purchase price of the iPod. However, if Apple were to dramatically drop the price, for instance by 50%, the accessory at its present price would now be 20% of the of iPod price. This may be perceived by the market as a doubling of the accessory’s price. To maintain its perceived value the accessory marketer may need to respond to the iPod price drop by also lowering the price of the accessory.

External Factors: Government Regulation

Marketers must be aware of regulations that impact how price is set in the markets in which their products are sold. These regulations are primarily government enacted meaning that there may be legal ramifications if the rules are not followed. Price regulations can come from any level of government and vary widely in their requirements. For instance, in some industries, government regulation may set price ceilings (how high price may be set) while in other industries there may be price floors (how low price may be set). Additional areas of potential regulation include: deceptive pricing, price discrimination, predatory pricing and price fixing.

Finally, when selling beyond their home market, marketers must recognize that local regulations may make pricing decisions different for each market. This is particularly a concern when selling to international markets where failure to consider regulations can lead to severe penalties. Consequently marketers must have a clear understanding of regulations in each market they serve.

There are also additional legal concerns when it comes to price which we will discuss in a future tutorial.

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