Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Is The Failure of Ron Johnson at J.C. Penny a Sign Anchoring Wins?

I posted an article about Anchoring a while ago.  For a refresher, anchoring is all about the seller trying to establish a starting price for a product or service.  To put it in transportation terms we see this all the time.  When an executive at a transportation company publicly states "rates are going up because capacity is going down" they are, very strategically, anchoring the conversation he or she will have with a buyer.  They are hoping, going into the conversation, the buyer will start with the premise above then they work from there. 

The alternative, as I advocate all the time,  is "should cost" modeling which means the buyer goes into the conversation with no preconceived notions established by the seller.  The only thing the buyer brings to the table is cost data down to the lowest level possible.  That starts the conversation.  If the seller ignores this data and just goes back to supply and demand dynamics then they are effectively establishing themselves as a commodity. Which is a place I am sure they do not want to be.

Ron Johnson tried "should cost" on the consumer side with a twist.  Rather than create artificially high prices (see the transportation exec comment above) he tried to tell the consumer exactly what the every day price is based on cost and a reasonable mark up - profitability.   Unfortunately, the consumer would have none of it.

The consumer, by leaving Penny in droves, signaled to the sellers (the retailers) that they would rather have the retailer anchor the discussion at a ridiculously high price then they can play a silly game of "how has the biggest coupon" to get to some equally artificially low price. 

In the end, the consumer loses big in this.  The consumer is saying they would rather be played by sophisticated sales manipulation techniques.  A sad day for the consumer.

Ensure, as a commercial buyer, you do not fall into the same silliness.

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