Amazon makes bargains more opaque by ditching list prices

Amazon is experimenting with dropping list prices, the price of a product as suggested by the manufacturer, as it looks at ways to keep customers locked into its ecosystem.

Amazon: could shopping on the site become so convenient, consumers never check the price?
Amazon: could shopping on the site become so convenient, consumers never check the price?

Conventionally, the e-commerce giant has used the list price to show how much of a bargin a shopper is getting. The site displays the recommended retail price, scribbled out, and then the Amazon retail price is displayed beneath. 

But according to The New York TimesAmazon is quietly dropping any mention of a list price, giving consumers less sense of choice, and the site less of a bargain feel. The idea is to move away from discounting – a contentious legal subject in the US – and lock consumers more tightly into the wider Amazon ecosystem.

Speaking to the newspaper, Clarkson University professor of consumer studies Larry Compeau said: "They are trying to figure out what product categories have customers who are so tied into the Amazon ecosystem that list prices are no longer necessary."

The thinking is that the fewer reasons consumers have to proactively think about an item's price elsewhere, the less likely they are to leave Amazon's site.

At the same time, Amazon is making it much easier to buy on Amazon and never leave the ecosystem. If, for example, it's easier for a consumer to buy milk through Amazon Fresh via the Amazon Echo and have it delivered immediately, they are unlikely to question whether milk costs an addtional 5p. It becomes more effort than it's worth to work out whether Amazon is over-charging.

Amazon will not drop price comparisons entirely, instead telling consumers how much items used to cost on Amazon. 

The changes to list prices are not universal across the site, according to the report, but Amazon is experimenting with different categories and products.