OnDemand WTP Pricing Research

Why aren’t more people using Alexa to shop? It may because we love to price compare | USA Today

Amazon holds its pricing algorithms close to the vest. But there is research that indicates the easiest route does not always end up with the best price, rewarding the customer who spends a little time digging around Amazon’s many offerings. And Alexa certainly qualifies as an easy route.

According to a 2016 study from a trio of Northeastern University researchers, 44 percent of shoppers head straight to Amazon to make their purchases, which typically makes it harder to find the best deal. According to the Northeastern researchers, 82 percent of orders are placed in what’s called the “Buy Box” – the area to the right of the product description with the “Add-to-Cart” button. But the most favorable pricing usually takes another few clicks to tease out by clicking on the tinier link to “other sellers” that includes other offerings, the study found.

I have found it pays to price compare – and that’s a lot easier to do with a screen. While gift-shopping a few weeks ago, for example, I searched Google for a “GemOro jewelry steamer,” and Amazon had the best deal: the GemOro 0362 for $85.00, plus free shipping. But when I conducted the same search directly on Amazon,  that offer did not immediately appear. The lowest price was $92.99 for the GemOro 0375, the gray version of the 0362. The black GemOro 0362 was offered by a third-party seller for $99.95.

Searching on Amazon’s own site did not show the $85 version in one of the first results. (Photo: Screenshot)

You can uncover the same $85 deal on Amazon that popped up so easily in my Google search. But it takes work – and a little luck. It surfaced when I searched directly for “GemOro 0362”. It also popped up when I sorted the more general search by price instead of the default “featured” sort.

Amazon says its customers get the same prices on items, whether from Amazon.com, the app, the Dash Button or Alexa. Which, in my experience, is at least technically accurate. For every item I shopped for save one, the identical item Alexa offered appeared at or near the top of the Amazon.com search.

The key here is that “products” and “items” aren’t exactly synonyms on Amazon.com. A twin-pack of 26-ounce Morton’s natural sea salt, for example, is a product that appears as multiple items on Amazon.com. One is Amazon’s own listing. The others are sold at varying prices by partners in Amazon’s vast network of manufacturing sponsors and third-party sellers.

So yes, it can be tricky to wade through the options online to find the best deal. But you can do it, armed with a display plastered with browser windows to explore options and compare prices.

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Why aren’t more people using Alexa to shop? Blame price shopping: analysis.