In my book The Mouse Charmers I mention e-commerce sites as the new channel for shopping – and the products involve anything from out every day consumption like Onions and Potatoes to high end purchases like Solitaire diamonds. In the conclusion I wondered how are these e-tailers going to simulate an environment that simulates haggling or bargaining for the customer. Like the new channels the bargaining modes are also bound to change.
I see the emergence of discount coupon sites that offer discounts on various products or services offered by online vendors. For example say Flipit India offers coupons that can be redeemed on the bus ticker seller website Goibibo and many other e-commerce portals of India. These coupons sometimes give discount in terms of percentage discount and sometimes as a net figure. For technology products, coupons have been in vogue for a long time, but for the consumer products they have just started making their mark. These coupon companies make money by getting a percentage of the sales achieved through the coupons that they sold. For e-commerce companies they become an extra marketing channels that adds to their sales and the discount cost can also be seen as the marketing or outreach cost for the companies. Though the companies can host their own discount coupons, having dedicated coupon sites lets the customers know at one place of all the discounts available. It is like collating one big online sale.
My only concern with discount coupons is that they come with too many conditions sometime. Lets take and example of a discount – a discount of Rs 500/- on the next ticket booked through RedBus that is valid for next 15-30 days and must be used for a transaction not less than 3000 Rs. Sometimes too many of these conditions make the coupons viable.
This is a first step towards the realm of bargaining. This is still one way where the coupons are used by companies – both commerce and coupon companies to entice the customer, to reach out to customer. What we need to see is how they make the coupons two way and let the customer also offer to buy a certain product for a certain value be able to dictate the price to an extent. Only when the communication is two way or the bargaining is two will the real situation be emulated.
Till then enjoy the big online sale on coupon sites.