If low prices are your competitive strength, it makes sense that you want to communicate this to your customer the best way you can on your website. Customers increasingly turn to price comparison sites like Shopping.com and Bizrate which pull up-to-date prices from participating merchant data feeds. But is displaying competitor prices on your own site a good idea?
Last week Zachary, a GetElastic reader from PlumberSurplus.com alerted us that a competitor was showing an incorrect price on a price comparison table on its product page. This was discovered by Plumber Surplus during routine price checks on the competitor's site.
The competing site in question has since taken down the price comparisons. Plumber Surplus never contacted the competitor about it, the comparison tables just came down on their own. So we don't know why the site decided to take them down, but I can think of at least three good reasons why ecommerce sites should avoid using price comparison tables:
1. Risk of Lawsuit
Unless you are posting accurate, up-to-date prices, you could end up in hot water legally. Continual manual checking and adjustment eats up time resources.
2. Advertising for the Competition
When you mention a competitor, you risk a customer interrupting the sales process to either verify the advertised pricing or check out what they have. Not everyone will do this, of course. Because price is not always the most important criterion for purchase, if you're a smaller shop and you mention a more well-known store, the branding recall effect / trust for that site might override your undercut price. Or the customer may discover your competitor is offering free shipping or other incentive that you were not aware of.
3. Eroding Trust, Rather Than Building It
If you post the wrong information, you come across as deceptive (should the customer verify the price difference). This negative impression could last forever in the customer's mind. If you post dates and don't update every couple days it could also raise questions about your accuracy.
A Better Approach
You can still highlight the savings of buying from you by listing "suggested retail" or "compare at" pricing, as Plumber Surplus and BlueFly do:
If you do have great low pricing, there's plenty of opportunity to get found in comparison shopping engines by submitting up-to-date product feeds. But it's risky to put these tables on your own site.