I've seen a couple of surveys recently which suggest that showing the prices for a competing e-commerce site is something that consumers want, and that can be beneficial for etailers. 

It seems counter-intuitive, as it may lead customers straight to competing websites, but can this be a good idea for etailers, or is it just madness? 

The idea behind showing other prices is that, since customers are going to shop around and check prices on other websites anyway, providing price comparison on product pages can save customers time and effort, and keep them on your site. 

Also, seeing that a site is open about competitors' prices may increase trust in the eyes of the customer, though sites may have to show higher and lower prices to achieve this. 

There are some surveys which suggest that customers want this, According to a survey from the e-tailing group and Winbuyer, 53% of shoppers said they would be less compelled to comparison shop elsewhere if they could see competitors' prices from product pages. 

Winbuyer offers this service for retailers, mainly in the US, and some, like this one, in the UK. This is a javascript app that sits on product pages and provides prices from a selection of retailers, though I've yet to see an example where competitors' prices were lower

It claims that this price comparison application can increase conversions. An A/B test (pdf warning) carried out on six of the sites using the app found that average order values increased by 3.4% when customers viewed the price comparison table. 

The clients of WinBuyer, at least in the UK, seem to be smaller retailers, and perhaps this price app works by adding credibility and reassuring customers that they are getting the best deal. Then again, a 3.4% increase in average order values isn't that major, unless you happen to be Amazon. 

I think that any success may also depend on which retailers you are comparing your prices with. In the example above, it makes sense to compare with Amazon, as this is one site people are likely to choose instead, but if you are showcasing retailers nobody may have heard of, then the effect may not be the same.

Whether this would work for larger sites is debatable, and the only example I can think of is The Book Depository. When I talked to MD Kieron Smith last year, I asked why Amazon's prices were displayed on product pages: 

It is counter-intuitive, but it works well. It shows customers that our prices are competitive compared to the biggest book retailer out there. In the online book business, you can't avoid Amazon, and customers will often visit the site to see if they can get a better price anyway, so having this on our website means that customers can see prices without having to leave the site.

This makes sense, but the company has stopped doing this now, so perhaps the strategy wasn't working so well now more people are aware of the brand, or maybe there is another reason. 

There are some very good reasons why showing competitor prices may not be such a good idea though. For me, anything that distracts users on the product page is a bad idea. If customers are thinking of a purchase on your site, their attention should not be distracted by another retailer. 

Also, showing this on product pages means that it could very quickly drive customers elsewhere where, even if prices are higher, they may find that delivery charges and lead times are more appealing.

This is not like offline shopping, where ASDA may show Tesco's prices next to its own on the shelves to show customers they are getting a good deal. Online, customers can go elsewhere with very little effort. 

Linda Bustos from the Get Elastic blog has three compelling reasons why showing competitor prices may be a bad idea

  • Legal reasons. If you show inaccurate competitor prices, you could end up on trouble...
  • Advertising the competition. Shoppers may leave your site to check out other offers and not come back. 
  • Risk of eroding trust. If shoppers find that your information is inaccurate, you will lose credibility. Also, if you only show competitors with higher prices, this may look suspicious to customers. 

Another point to consider is that some retailers compete on more than just price, so a retailer that offers a high standard of service in terms of delivery and overall customer experience would rightly object to reducing their proposition to just a matter of price.

For example, I may find a TV cheaper elsewhere than on the John Lewis website, but I know that John Lewis offers a free five year guarantee on TVs, and has also proved to be reliable when I have bought items from them before. This is something that cannot be summed up in a simple price comparison table. 

My gut feeling is that, if showing competitors' prices works at all, it is more likely to for items such as DVDs, games and smaller electrical goods where the price is all important, and it is difficult for anyone to compete with larger sites like Amazon on price anyway.

I can't see any established online retailers using this kind of feature though, as they rely more on the brand name and overall customer experience offering than simply selling at the cheapest price. I certainly wouldn't be recommending that they try this out...

I'd love to hear some more opinions on the issue - can showing competitors' prices work? Have you tried it on your site? Let me know below... 

Graham Charlton

Published 25 February, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (17)

Save or Cancel

xavier Izaguirre

I think is a fair point and testable with A/B. So why not trying (as long as you are competing on price, of course).

What about the Invisible Hand, an extension for Chrome that checks for lower price for identical products. Increasingly, people are going to know anyway, so I don't see why don't try something new if it works.

over 8 years ago


Bruce Sweigert

Yes!  That is of course that you have a competitive offering - either you are the lowest price or have value-added services or some combination of the two.  It shows the customer that you are honest enough to offer the comparison and you give them the confidence to buy with you.  To assume that the customer won't shop around for the best combination of service and price is fooling yourself.

over 8 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Xavier / Bruce - I agree that you can test and see if it works or not, and that people will search and compare prices anyway, but price comparison on product pages doesn't take into account the other value that a particular retailer adds to the deal other than just price; such as guarantees, faster shipping, a great reputation for customer service, and so on. 

I'd pay a little bit more for a product from a retailer I had used before and had a good experience with - price isn't everything. 

over 8 years ago



Thanks Graham Charlton for a nice blog..!

I agree with you in some points - providing another company's details in our site >> will surely become a drawback for us. What you need to do is just attract the users with your features and not with the price.

More over, most of us going to buy any products after hearing reviews from others (lets say from your friends) only. The importance of mouth-to-mouth marketing was more here; so after all, the one which stands away is the quality and not the price.

If you started to comparing your price with others, the user's might doubts your qulaity indeed. Most agree with any price if the results are better than their expectation.

So, I would as like you, better work on improving quality rather than showing competitor's price.

over 8 years ago

Matthew Lawson

Matthew Lawson, eCommerce Director at loveholidays.com

We have recently launch with a price match promise and we took the decision to display the competitors prices on the product page.



We will be monitoring it as its only a week old but early indications has shown some positive signs.

We feel that it was important to reforce that our price match promise was more than just words and as we all know the internet is transparent so and very easy for customer to leave to find the information they want, in this case price.

We feel that if you can deliver all the important information to the customer without them having to leave the page then its only going to increase the possibility of the conversion.

For example we have on the product page;

- Price

- Availability

- Earlier delivery date to your house (Not in the checkout)

- Customer rating

- Highlighting key features

- Now Competitor prices

What do you think of it?

over 8 years ago


selina howells

"Our customers are telling us that they are facing a tough year and are cautious, particularly for borrowing, but that their appetite for searching on line for the best deals is stronger than ever before." Peter Plumb, moneysupermarket.com

I can see this working, it reflects what consumers are doing anyway. Those wedded to lowest price will go their own way anyway. If a product description about features versus price is given and a good range of prices displayed, I can see a mid price point working for a retailer offering good value.

over 8 years ago


Sachin Uppal

A lot depends on how "known" is your business. Additionally, if the price offered by your product is lower than the compared prices it makes sense, however, if your price is higher and your business is less known than others, then its truly counter intuitive to experiment with something like this. Though, A/B tests always help and data settles it all.

over 8 years ago



I love investigating these new developments to nit pick the details and this has really got me buzzing, so check this out:

Just by checking the winbuyer site you can actually see a bunch of merchants who are using the product. There are many well established merchants using them including Overstock.com. That was easy enough to check.

To get a better feel for Winbuyer's reliability I did a comparison with Pricegrabbers embedded application. None of the winbuyer results were inaccurate (out of like 6 examples I checked) , but pricegrabber was way off. I checked them through rottentomatoes.com and more than once I didn't even get the same price or exact product they listed. So far winbuyer is reliable.

As far as this type of info distracting shoppers on the product page (really now) more and more sites are developing sophisticated review functions and alternative products offers and no one to my knowledge has ever suggested could serve as a distraction at the point of sale. Why would pricing info be any different than those other well accepted methods of driving conversion???


over 8 years ago



My name is Irene Mankovsky and I’m the marketing manager at WinBuyer, the company providing onsite comparative pricing mentioned in your post.
First – Thanks, Graham for encouraging a discussion in the merits of comparison pricing – it’s important to our industry and we often receive similar questions about the issues you raise:

1. WinBuyer is equally effective on large retailers – like Overstock.com, a WinBuyer customer – as it is on smaller sites.

2.  With regard to attrition rate, since releasing WinBuyer OCP less than a year and a half ago, we have grown to serving over 200 online retailers.  In a recent Internet Retailing article, Rob Levy, President of Electric Shopping, a retail site utilizing OCP, commented:  “In testing, we’ve seen a significant jump in conversions for products with Onsite Comparison Pricing enabled. 2009 has been a tough year for retailers and customers alike, but by adding Onsite Comparison Pricing to our conversion toolset, electricshopping.com has seen a larger than expected revenue lift in the fourth quarter.”

Regarding the points you reference towards the end of your post:

1.  Concerning the risk of a lawsuit and eroding user trust, a solution that addresses both of these concerns can be found by utilizing real-time exact product matching – like we do at WinBuyer – which ensures that the comparative products match the product being sold on that page. With real-time based technology, online retailers have no reason to be concerned.

2.    Relating to the point about ‘advertising the competition’, at WinBuyer, we believe that this is a reflection of the way that sales and marketing are evolving. Users are already comparison shopping on a range of websites because alternative products are one click away. Why not offer them some alternatives directly on the product page when this is what online shoppers are asking for (according to the survey) and it’s improving retailer metrics like conversions, order size and revenue?

I would be pleased to answer any additional questions anyone here has – please email me at irene@winbuyer.com.

over 8 years ago


veiko herne

As a customer, who is nearly ready to buy a product from a site and looking competitive prices would think... maybe I check more competitors to get better deal :)

Look, finding a best deal in Internet can be time consuming and time costs money. If you usually earn $25 per hour and had spent ten hours to find the best deal for $19.95 product is stupidity. But most people does not think this way anyway. They can feel suddely robbed when they have purchased something $15.95 and find out that somebody is selling it for $14.95.

over 8 years ago


john spencer

I think this is a great idea.....Its the next futue of price comparison. Most people use price comparison sites so this is just taking it a step further. I am all for it.. I think it would be an interesting roundtable discussion with some small, medium and large retailers to give the pros and cons for this application....

over 8 years ago



Do you know of any service providers (not product retailers) who price compare online? A service such as repair service has so many components (parts, labor etc) that go into pricing and a customer is not always aware of the price breakup early on. Is it recommended to price compare for services? If yes, should only labor rates be compared? The trickiest part though is getting competitive prices.

over 8 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi Nathan, 

I don't know of any, and I can't see it working for service providers, it would be too complicated to compare labour charges, parts etc. 

over 8 years ago


Glen Nothnagel

It could be a good way to increase revenue if you do the comparison with affiliate links. For instance you have a great deal of comparison shoppers coming to your site to see your cost vs another stores. They come to your site and see you are not the lowest and see a link to click to get back to the lowest, and boom, you just generated an affiliate commission opposed to a bounced visitor. Glen

over 8 years ago



Great blog. I recently set up a business that provides a service. With a key focus on exemplary customer service I have no intention of bottom-fishing with the lowest prices. However my prices are better than my key competitors so at least temporarily, I am thinking of blowing my own trumpet and doing a price comparison on my website and/or mail shots. The comparison would have a footnote that states at what time and date prices were checked. In my industry prices very rarely change.

I was recently searching for a provider of office supplies for my new business. I found one that looked good, placed my first order and then stumbled on another one that offered price comparisons for all its products - I immediately switched. OK they are not the cheapest for absolutely everything but the fact that they are comparing prices with others speaks volumes for me. Whilst price isn't everything it is a signficant factor for most consumers - anything you can do to show you have an eye for pricing is a good thing.

about 8 years ago



Nice Post. Thanks a lot..

over 7 years ago


Robert Clark

We just started showing competitors prices on our website - and have now been threatened by one of them, stating that we are infringing their registered trademark by featuring their logo on our site - have you come across this before?



over 7 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.