Understanding the 4 Ps of marketing (Product, Price, Place, Promotion) has traditionally been critical to commercial success.
Theory has it that if you produce the right product for your target market, at the right price, make it available in the right place, and give it the right promotion, the market will buy it.
The model has worked well for both goods and services. But how is the model holding up in the digital arena?
In the Digital Age, a combination of technology, different transaction models and new marketing tools means that the Product (content), Place (internet) and Promotion (social media) not only co-exist, they are so inter-twined that in some cases they are almost one and the same thing: for example, a Justin Bieber video clip on Vevo, an in-app purchase for Angry Birds, BBC news headlines on Twitter. The boundaries are blurred between the content, the means of production, and the point of distribution and promotion.
So, how do content providers approach Pricing? If that’s the main point of differentiation, how do they compete on price (even though we sort of know that competing on price alone is often a race to the bottom, where nobody wins)?
In fact, even though the price of digital content sold via services like iTunes and Google Play is set by the content owner, they generally have to price according to set price bands and at specific price points determined by the retail platform – and often for particular territories (thanks to the practice of geo-blocking). The alternatives are to sell direct (which means creating a separate sales and distribution infrastructure) or via 3rd party platforms (which may not have the market presence of iTunes or Google Play).
With so much content available for “free” (as long as customers are willing to submit certain personal information, or are prepared to tolerate advertising) the current wisdom suggests that you have to give (some) content away in order to attract customers who might be willing to pay for it (over time). But is that a long-term strategy for success?
In my experience, pricing in the Digital Age is all about the 4 As:
- Actual Costs – what are the costs of design, development, production and distribution (plus overheads)?
- Acquisition Costs – what does it take to get new customers (and not just “followers” and “likes”)?
- Adhesion Costs – what makes content “sticky” (and what will it take to keep your customers once they start paying)? Is it frequent new content? Is it service quality? Is it establishing brand loyalty?
- Alternative Costs – what choices do your customers have (both traditional and non-traditional competition)? What are the switching costs?
Finally, when competing on price, especially if it’s not a like-for-like comparison, where are the acceptable customer trade-offs between your product and a competing service (e.g., do you know the customer drivers and the purchase decision processes)? What do your customers think they are paying for? Just because you place a high degree of value on some aspect of your content (e.g., exclusivity) does the customer value it the same way?