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Pricing in the Dog Days of August

It seems that not many people wanted to spend the weekend in Philadelphia during August. Hotels that might be full during the week were sparsely populated on the weekends. But, Marriott was not taking this situation lying down.

The Philadelphia Marriott came up with an innovative pricing strategy. Any guest who booked a two-night stay starting any Friday during August into mid-September had to pay only the price of the highest outside temperature for the Saturday night rate. So, the guest paid regular prices on Friday night and the heavily discounted rate, based on the day’s high temperature, for Saturday night. A clever approach to discounting.

This is one of several approaches companies have used to get through periodic, or seasonal slow demand times. Companies have used the components of a price in order to bring customers to its products during slow times. For example:

  • A construction company changed its list price much as did the Philadelphia Marriott. It priced its services very aggressively for the months of January and February so its customers would move work forward that would normally be done in the spring or summer.
  • Other companies change the definition of their product to reach a new, lower, price point. Companies who sell fractional ownerships of private jets offer discounts up to 25% for flying on off-peak days.
  • Other companies make direct payments to customers. We can see this approach with the current Orbitz program called Price Assurance. Orbitz refunds customers the differences in fare if a customer purchases an airline ticket and then sees the price of the ticket fall before he leaves on his trip.
  • Some sellers throw in a free, or heavily discounted, product from a third party. For example, as the housing market became more difficult, some sellers offered to outfit a media room or pay closing costs for their buyers.

We believe that a company facing a tough pricing environment can gain a lot by studying what other companies have done when facing the same circumstances. We have many of these examples on our web site. (See Improve/Pricing on StrategyStreet.com.)

Posted 9/9/10

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