A clever, if somewhat furtive, method of making the most out of potential consumers, online marketers are using dynamic pricing strategies based on cookies. Cookies, stored on your computer (I’ll get into that in a second), are costing you money on a number of sites people use to shop online for clothes, airline tickets and much more.
Cookies are effectively a small file (or cluster of files) stored on your computer to tell a specific client – generally a website – whether or not you’ve visited, and what you’ve been up to on their website. As this blog discusses mainly the marketing implications of using cookies, a much more detailed explanation of what they are and how they work can be found here.
An example of this is used very commonly be airline, travel and hotel booking websites. These sites track your usage, and if you’re a first time visiter will display a standard price shown to all first time visitors. However, if you leave the website and return, the cookies saved on your computer will notify the website, and automatic changes will occur; usually a slight price increase. The logic here is that as a return visitor, it’s likely you’re not just skimming for information anymore and are actually interested in purchasing. Therefore, a slight increase in price that many people won’t notice is implemented, and the airline/hotel/etc company will make an extra $15 or so off your purchase.
Now to many, this may seem like a very shady business practise, and there is unfortunately no regulations against doing this. However, there is something you as a consumer can do to defend yourself per se, and reset the prices. Prior to visiting these websites for the second time, clear your cookies in your browser settings, and the website will essentially be unaware that you’ve visited before – and thus displaying the original lower price.