EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 342 - September 08, 2013 - ISSN 1528-6703     4 of 6

PriceWaiter Lets Shoppers Bargain with Online Merchants

By Greg Holden

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Shoppers are used to haggling with sellers over price at flea markets or on eBay, which has a "Best Offer" feature. But haggling with a retailer probably doesn't even occur to most buyers.

A service called PriceWaiter hopes to change that perception.

PriceWaiter enables participating online stores to add a "Name Your Price" button to their product listings. They then have the choice of accepting or rejecting the offer or making a counter-offer.

One buyer with the online name patticake reported on the website getting a pair of Mizuno running shoes, which retail for $199, for an offer of $150 - a substantially lower price than on eBay or Amazon. That may represent a big cut in profits, but there are other benefits to businesses, according to Ben Cornett, CEO of Louisville, KY-based EZ Watch, which offers security camera systems to homes and businesses.

"PriceWaiter has definitely increased our customer engagement," says Cornett. "An eight-month study on a random sample of our products using PriceWaiter pointed to an 18% bump in conversion. It also showed little to no cannibalization of traditional add-to-carts."

Cornett uses the PriceWaiter offer button on all but a handful of his SKUs. As you can see from the accompanying image, the product page for this security camera includes the Name Your Price button. Shoppers who click the button are presented with a form they fill out to make the offer. The form encourages them to make a reasonable offer, reminding them that "Reasonable offers (1-10% off) have a much better chance of being accepted."

"Since PriceWaiter lets us control what kind of offers we accept, it made it relatively easy to add it across our product lines," says Cornett.

Though PriceWaiter might sound a lot like eBay's Best Offer feature, there are significant differences, explains CEO Stephen Culp.

"We saw a need and created PriceWaiter to address it, drawing from our own entrepreneurial experiences rather than other examples," says Culp. "We created PriceWaiter to try to make buying and selling better."

Culp said unlike other pricing or shopping tools, PriceWaiter is distributed across the web on sites where retailers are already selling and shoppers are already shopping. "In other words," he said, "we're simply improving an experience that was already happening, rather than forcing people to change their habits, with the result being that both sides - buyer and seller - can quickly and easily reach deals they're both happy with."

At the time of this interview, the PriceWaiter standard package was free for the next 500 retailers to sign up for it, said Director of Business Development Weston Wamp. He added that in future, a premium version would be released for a monthly subscription fee.

Businesses of all sizes can use the product, from small mom-and-pop sellers to large, established retailers, he added. "In both scenarios PriceWaiter is allowing retailers to engage with customers better and increase conversions."

When businesses sign up for PriceWaiter, they are able to customize the interface so that the offer button can be used on as many or as few SKUs as the retailer chooses. The offer button works equally well on all types of products, according to initial feedback from sellers.

"Going into this, we had some assumptions about where PriceWaiter might underperform or over-perform, but so far, it's been our experience that PriceWaiter works for retailers of all sizes across all verticals," says COO Andrew Scarbrough. "Retailers have seen success selling items ranging from tennis shoes to engagement rings, security cameras to sofas. Rather than narrowing our focus, we're increasingly broadening it."

One of the biggest benefits of using the offer button is that it encourages customers to engage with a retailer who might never do so otherwise, says Wamp.

"We recommend using PriceWaiter on all products for two main reasons: first, because the seller is always in control of each negotiation, and second, it gives retailers an opportunity to engage comparison shoppers they may not otherwise engage at all."

PriceWaiter is based not in Silicon Valley, but in the emerging high-tech hub of Chattanooga Tennessee, known as "Gig City," (named for its super-fast Internet connection).

The company was founded by experienced retailers as well as ecommerce entrepreneurs ad customer service experts: CEO Culp founded venture-backed Smart Furniture before co-founding with Scarbrough. PriceWaiter first became available in Fall 2012.

In case you think your own business might be too small in terms of annual sales or your products too low-priced or quirky to use PriceWaiter, Wamp offers this advice: "In our experience working with both small and large retailers, there is no minimum. What PriceWaiter provides is a better way to engage more customers, convert comparison shoppers, and make MAP moot, whatever your size. As long as you want to sell more, and engage customers better, PriceWaiter is for you."

About the author:

Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.

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