Low price guarantees have adverse effects on consumer behavior

Published February 4, 2013

A study conducted by Reims Management School (RMS) reveals that consumers are often put off by promises of lowest prices which are coupled with high refund guarantees – contrary to the usual strategies of many top retailers.

Conventional marketing practise is based the natural assumption that consumers will choose the cheapest option when offered the same product at different prices. It is therefore up to the seller to convince the consumer that theirs is indeed the lowest price. Guarantees, coupled with a promise of reimbursement of the price difference if a cheaper option is found elsewhere, are an increasingly common method to deliver this impression.

The technique is also used to avoid show rooming; when consumers go in-store to decide the product to buy but in the end use the internet make the final purchase at the true ‘best price’.

New research from Reims Management School has found however that such strategies can cause consumers to become suspicious of the offer and may avoid making the purchase all together.  The researchers conducted three experiments consisting of 662 subjects, with the objective of better understanding consumer behaviour, their perception and their attitude in relation to these low price guarantees.

“This research has significant implications for retailers but also for manufacturers, said Adilson Borges, head of the Value & Persuasion Research Center at RMS.

“If the offer seems too good to be true, the consumer may start to believe that there is a catch, and become wary or suspicious of the details. This bad image creates a negative effect. The offer must appear to be credible. It must be truly beneficial and financially interesting for the consumer,” Borges said.

A price guarantee which offers an automatic refund of the difference where the retailer is constantly surveying competitors’ pricing works well and gives a positive image of the seller to the consumers. However, an automatic guarantee with a reimbursement which is too high such as five or ten times the difference, engenders a caution from the consumer, and conveys a rather negative image. Consumers were observed to reduce their purchase intention when facing these types of deals.

“In fact, when we examine the retailers together, we observe that their objective is to give the impression that they have the most competitive offer in the market. From this point of view they have every interest in offering a guarantee of the best price and reimbursing the difference,” said Borges.

The study “Revisiting low price guarantees: does consumer versus retailer governance matter?” was published in the review “Marketing Letters”, in September 2012, Volume 23, pp. 777-791.

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Reims Management School (RMS) Accredited by the AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), EQUIS (the European Quality Improvement System) and AMBA (The Association of MBAs), Reims Management School (RMS) is ranked among the Top 10 business schools in France and the Top 20 in Europe. In addition to its Grande Ecole programme “Sup de Co Reims”, RMS also offers 3 post-degree business schools: Cesem, Sup'TG and Tema. These schools also include 2 Masters of Science programmes, 6 specialized master’s programmes accredited by the CGE (Conférence des Grandes Ecoles) and an International full-time and part-time executive MBA. In 2009, the Paris Executive Campus, a joint venture with Rouen Business School dedicated to executive education, offered 3 part-time Masters programmes, an executive MBA and a continuing education programme. Both Reims Management School campuses educate over 4,000 students, of which 900 are international. Reims Management School has a network of over 150 partner universities in 40 countries and more than 23,000 alumni from around the world, grouped within the RMS-Network Association (www.rms-network.com).