How do you settle on the best price for your products - a price that puts you ahead of the competition while maintaining a healthy profit margin? As you probably know, having a price that's just a little lower than anybody else's gives you a huge advantage. But when your competitors are constantly changing their prices and you have hundreds or even thousands of prices to check, manually scanning other people's prices can take hours, even days of work.
A service called Price Spectre automates the price comparison process for businesses selling on eBay. Price Spectre works by tracking your fixed price and store inventory listings on eBay. You specify a "floor price" for each item and choose a formula that specifies how low the sale will be in relation to competitors' prices.
While many sellers are aware of Amazon repricing tools, Price Spectre is an eBay repricer. You can tell the program to be the first, second, or third lowest, for instance, or you can undercut other prices by a specified amount. You then create an advanced eBay search that enables the software to identify products with which you compete.
Price Spectre periodically checks your competitors' prices and adjusts your own prices so they remain at the specified level. If someone drops the price of their stainless steel widget by 25 cents to $13.99 for a special promotion, Price Spectre will quickly reduce your own widget to $13.98 if you have specified that you want to be one cent lower, as long as that's not below your floor price.
Keeping even a penny or a few cents ahead of the game can make a huge difference. A Price Spectre user who asked that he only be identified as "A longtime PowerSeller on eBay from the cheese-laden state of Wisconsin" said Price Spectre "allows us to maintain a low-cost leader position on our product spread in its entirety 24 hours a day for a nominal fee with robot precision."
The company's employees used to scan listings and adjust prices to keep up with the competition. But he says it was "an extremely time consuming process. Not to mention the fact that, when you do it by hand, there is of course a lead time and during that time period your buyer's eyes are being diverted to your competition."
The owner of DJDeals.com Stavros Mitchelides also uses Price Spectre to stay one cent below the competition's prices on eBay. The Burlington, VT-based company sells DJ (disk jockey) equipment, professional audio, and lighting.
"We've been selling on eBay for 12 years and have never come across something that is this efficient and this much of a time saver," he said. "I went from spending roughly 2 hours a day, 7 days a week, repricing my 300 auctions, to literally 3 minutes a day." He estimated that the product saves him 750 hours of "repetitive labor" each year.
Ryan Hatfield of San Jose, CA, the owner of Price Spectre, was a seller on eBay himself from 2002-09. "I stopped selling seriously in 2008 due to all of the major changes eBay made to their site at the time (feedback changes and the sudden instability being the main reasons)," he says. "Later that year I was laid off from my job as a software engineer at NVIDIA. Within about three weeks of losing my job I'd written my first "eBay Compatible Application" called Quantity Manager to take advantage of eBay's change from an auction site to one of fixed priced listings."
Hatfield created Price Spectre in 2009 and its parent company, NullApps, that same year. Price Spectre currently only reprices listings on eBay and Half.com. He says Price Spectre currently doesn't manage Amazon.com listings because many other products perform that function already.
He says Price Spectre users don't like to publicize their use of the product. "My products, understandably, tend to bring in users that don't want their customers and/or competitors to be aware that my apps exist or that they are using them," he says.
The Wisconsin PowerSeller said sales are going so well that he didn't want to mention his name or the company name out of fear that other entrepreneurs would join the field and start using Price Spectre themselves. "If we put out a strong word behind Price Spectre with our name or industry attached to it, all of our followers would be using it," he explains. "One of our most common questions is several variations of "what's the catch?" People can't believe the prices."
He pointed out another advantage of using Price Spectre: it not only enables merchants to keep prices low on products they have readily in stock, but also to maximize value on products that can't be restocked in the near future. In other words, the software doesn't always assign the lowest price to items, but is flexible based on how the user configures it. "This is an obvious best solution to an age-old problem in inventory management of stock moving faster than it can be replenished."
Price Spectre users can try out the service for free for seven days. After that, they are charged a monthly fee based on the number of sales listings the software is managing. For 201-1000 listings, for instance, the price is $19.95 per month.