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Blue-light special vs. price slashing: Comparing frequent discounts to periodic deep discounts


Have you ever driven by one of those car lots where all of the cars facing the street are perpetually on sale? There’s always a "hot deal" to accompany those "low miles" or "one driver" lures. Alternatively, your favorite clothing store may almost never have sales. But when it does--between seasons perhaps--the prices plummet. Which product promotion better?

"One question facing managers who decide to promote a product periodically is whether to offer frequent but shallow or deep but infrequent discounts. Previous research does not offer clear insights on the superiority of one tactic over the other," write Ashok K. Lalwani and Kent B. Monroe, both of the University of Illinois.

In a forthcoming study in the Journal of Consumer Research, the researchers found that frequently fluctuating prices caused consumers to perceive a product’s average price as lower than when the price of a product was reduced by a larger amount but less often. Thus, the line of sale-priced cars may be a better scheme than a deep price cut here and there.

"It has been shown that frequent but modest discounts lead to perceptions of greater value and higher rates of purchase than do less frequent but deeper discounts," explain the authors. "[These] results indicate that the salience of frequency or magnitude of discounts influence price perceptions. In the case of magnitude of discounts, the salience is due to the absolute size, and not the percentage of discounts."

Suzanne Wu | EurekAlert!
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