Buying something means paying a price. But what exactly is “price? ”

  • Price is the money someone charges for a good or service. For example, an item of clothing will cost a certain amount of money. Or a computer specialist will charge a certain amount of money for fixing your computer.
  • Price is also that which you, a consumer, has to give up in order to receive a product or service. Price does not necessarily always mean money. Bartering is when you exchange goods or services in return for goods or services. For example, I teach you English in exchange for you teaching me about graphic design. In that case, I give up my time and knowledge.

Even though the question, “How much? ” could be phrased as “How much does it cost? ” price and cost are two different things. Whereas the price of a product is what you, the consumer has to pay to obtain it, the cost is what the business pays to make it. When you ask about the cost of a good or service, you’re really asking how much will you have to give up to get it.

Different Perspectives on Price

The perception of price differs based on the perspective from which it is beign viewed.

Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton sells luxury designer goods such as these suitcases. If Louis Vuitton merchandise was offered at low prices it might significantly undermine the brand value, much of which is based upon exclusivity.

The Customer’s View

A customer can either be the ultimate user of the finished product or a business that purchases components of the finished product. It is the customer that seeks to satisfy a need or set of needs through the purchase of a particular product or set of products. Consequently, the customer uses several criteria to determine how much they are willing to expend, or the price they are willing to pay, in order to satisfy these needs. Ideally, the customer would like to pay as little as possible.

For the business to increase value, it can either increase the perceived benefits or reduce the perceived costs. Both of these elements should be considered elements of price.

To a certain extent, perceived benefits are the opposite of perceived costs. For example, playing a premium price is compensated for by having this exquisite work of art displayed in one’s home. Other possible perceived benefits directly related to the price-value equations are:

  • Status
  • Convenience
  • The deal
  • Brand
  • Quality
  • Choice

Many of these benefits tend to overlap. For instance, a Mercedes Benz E750 is a very high-status brand name and possesses superb quality. This makes it worth the USD 100,000 price tag. Further, if one can negotiate a deal reducing the price by USD 15,000, that would be his incentive to purchase. Likewise, someone living in an isolated mountain community is willing to pay substantially more for groceries at a local store than drive 78 miles (25.53 kilometers) to the nearest Safeway. That person is also willing to sacrifice choice for greater convenience.

Increasing these perceived benefits are represented by a recently coined term, value-added. Providing value-added elements to the product has become a popular strategic alternative.

Perceived costs include the actual dollar amount printed on the product, plus a host of additional factors. As noted, perceived costs are the mirror-opposite of the benefits. When finding a gas station that is selling its highest grade for USD 0.06 less per gallon, the customer must consider the 16 mile (25.75 kilometer) drive to get there, the long line, the fact that the middle grade is not available, and heavy traffic. Therefore, inconvenience, limited choice, and poor service are possible perceived costs. Other common perceived costs include risk of making a mistake, related costs, lost opportunity, and unexpected consequences.

Ultimately, it is beneficial to view price from the customer’s perspective because it helps define value — the most important basis for creating a competitive advantage.

Society’s View

Price, at least in dollars and cents, has been the historical view of value. Derived from a bartering system (exchanging goods of equal value), the monetary system of each society provides a more convient way to purchase goods and accumulate wealth. Price has also become a variable society employs to control its economic health. Price can be inclusive or exclusive. In many countries, such as Russia, China, and South Africa, high prices for products such as food, health care, housing, and automobiles, means that most of the population is excluded from purchase. In contrast, countries such as Denmark, Germany, and Great Britain charge little for health care and consequently make it available to all.

There are two different ways to look at the role price plays in a society; rational man and irrational man. The former is the primary assumption underlying economic theory, and suggests that the results of price manipulation are predictable. The latter role for price acknowledges that man’s response to price is sometimes unpredictable and pretesting price manipulation is a necessary task.

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