SmartMoney Blogs

Real-Time Advice
Our real-time advice on how market shifts and news impact you and your money

How Online Retailers Personalize Prices

One price doesn’t fit all online. Retailers adjust prices and discounts based on each customer’s online habits and persona.

Travel website Orbitz says that it sometimes shows customers using Apple computers more expensive travel offers than Windows visitors, as the former typically spend 30% more, The Wall Street Journal reports. But that’s just one of many variables sites use to set prices, e-commerce experts say. “It’s common practice for retailers to make offers based on everything from your zip code to the kind of smartphone you’re using,” says Robert M. Weiss, technology practice group at Neal Gerber & Eisenberg, who notes the practice is legal so long as the vendor doesn’t change prices based on race, religion or gender.

The customer’s location in particular has a huge influence on the size and quality of discounts, experts say. For one, if a customer lives near one of the retailer’s warehouses, it will cost less for the company to throw in two-day free shipping. “Retailers know that free shipping is a huge motivator to get people to buy,” says Ashok Narasiman, CEO of Mountain View, Ca.-based e-commerce site, which counts eBay among its clients. The climate or weather might also be a factor in snagging a deal: If an online retailer knows you’re shopping from Seattle during the rainy season, it may charge more for raincoats in the same way street vendors raise umbrella prices during a downpour, says e-commerce consultant Bryan Eisenberg.

The sites visited prior to purchase also play a role in the retailer’s price. Online retailers track consumers every move online through their “cookies” – little pieces of code stored on computers or mobile devices. Visiting an online retailer by clicking through an ad may make a discount less likely if the retailer has to pay the search engine for re-directing the customer, Narasiman says. Other sites reserve discounts for new customers only, says Feras Alhlou, co-founder of, a digital analytics consulting firm in Santa Clara, Ca. “Existing customers need to delete their cookies to see these discounts too,” he says.

Even the words entered into a search engine may impact prices, experts say. If a retailer knows a consumer searched for “size 10 patent leather men’s shoes,” the company might be more likely to give a $10 discount or throw in a free pair of socks, Narasiman says. These are known as “long-tailed” searches, he says. “The more detailed the search, the more likely the consumer will make a purchase,” Narasiman says. He says it costs far more in marketing and advertising to win a customer back if they come to the site and leave without making a purchase. “If retailers feel they’re close to buying but need that extra nudge with the right and relevant offer,” Eisenberg says, “they will do just that.”


We welcome thoughtful comments from readers. Please comply with our guidelines. Our blogs do not require the use of your real name.

Comments (5 of 14)

View all Comments »
    • GVO is the greatest multilevel marketing chance of today. Require a tour of the usb ports and commence your internet advertising enterprise!!

    • I enjoyed reading this article. Especially liked reading about customer profiles which I think are more and more important for getting best value out of marketing these days.

    • By WebOsPublisher

      Just want to add the ocons on my website.

      Also how do I add a paypal account on my website as well?

      Thanks for your time.
      concrete5 :: I want to add the twittwer/facebook icons that link to my profile?
      @import “″;
      @import “/js/fancybox/jquery.fancybox-1.3.4.css?201005021800″;
      Join Now
      Sign In
      Instant Setup
      AboutTry it OutFor DevelopersFor AgenciesFor DesignersFor AnyoneTestimonialsShowcaseOur PhilosophyBlogCommunityMembersForumsChatKarmaInternationalJobseNewslettersDevelopersDownload concrete5Join Beta TeamTranslate concrete5Bug TrackerSubmit to MarketplaceCode SubmissionsNewsCommunity LeadersMarketplaceAdd-OnsThemesHostingTrainingAdd-on InstallationDeal Of The DaySwagEnterpriseDocumentationGetting Started5.5 Editor’s GuideDevelopers GuideHow-Tos5.4 Editor’s Guide
      Advanced Search
      Editing with concrete5
      Mark Discussion as Helpful
      I want to add the twittwer/facebook icons that link to my profile?
      September 30, 2011 at 3:06 AM
      Just want to add the ocons on my website.
      Also how do I add a paypal account on my website as well?
      Thanks for your time.
      ezek413Date Joined: 11/23/09Karma: 15Answers:0Bio:My name is Isaac and I am 25 from California, recently …View Profile
      View Replies:
      Chronological (Earliest First)
      Chronological (Recent First)
      View Best Answer
      wagdi replied on Sep 30, 2011 at 7:57 am
      Best Answer
      Have you tried the ‘Social icons’ addon by ‘defunct’?-… (FREE)
      It says- "Social Icons allows you to enter your social URLs and have them displayed in a nice format with icons included. This updated package now includes over 65 icons for popular social networking websites created by Rogie and you must abide by his license. The look and feel can be easily updated by adjusting the CSS."
      For Paypal you can look at-
      ‘Paypal Donations Box’ by ‘Concrete5′-… (FREE)
      OR- ‘PayPal Payments Pro Gateway’ by ‘MichaelG’-… ($30)
      It says- ‘This is a payment gateway for C5′s eCommerce add-on. Using this payment method you can now accept credit cards directly on your site using PayPals Website Payments Pro.’
      Hope that helps.
      Post Reply
      Enclose code samples in [code][/code].
      Attach a file
      Monitor this Post (receive an email each time a reply is posted)
      Delete Post
      You are allowed to delete your post for 5 minutes after it’s posted.
      CommunityForumsEditing with concrete5I want to add the twittwer/facebook icons that link to my profile?
      Do you have questions
      What are users saying?
      Who is using concrete5?
      What makes concrete5 easy?
      Why develop on concrete5?
      We’re on “The Twitter”
      RT @concrete5: New in the #concrete5 marketplace: 2 add-ons for displaying videos, a light theme, and a cooking regulation bar: t …
      Follow concrete5
      Try it OutFor DevelopersFor AgenciesFor DesignersFor AnyoneTestimonialsShowcaseOur PhilosophyBlog
      Download concrete5Join Beta TeamTranslate concrete5Bug TrackerBetaSubmit to MarketplaceCode SubmissionsNewsCommunity LeadersUser Doc Group
      Add-OnsThemesHostingTrainingAdd-on InstallationDeal Of The DaySwag
      Getting Started5.5 Editor’s GuideDevelopers GuideHow-Tos5.4 Editor’s Guide
      Privacy Policy
      Terms of Use
      Refund Policy
      Contact Us
      © 2008 to 2012 Concrete CMS Inc. All Rights Reserved.
      Sign In?
      You must have a user account and be signed to perform this action.
      Sign In

    • By WebOsPublisher

      Samsung Corby 2 or S3850 – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare + Radioactive Icons Themes
      Samsung Corby 2 or S3850 – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare + Radioactive Icons Themes – Blog Top Sites
      Samsung Corby 2 or S3850 – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare + Radioactive Icons Themes
      Like it 4
      by: Tiu_Bi_Zhu – Site Details »
      Samsung Corby 2 or S3850 – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare + Radioactive Icons Themes
      Wait no more for this theme Bonting101, the guy or girl (?) who requested this theme last last week, I guess. I may say you are very lucky indeed because Corby Cat originally made all the radioactive icons with 3D like effect just for this themes. Th…
      read more
      -1) || (document.referrer.indexOf(‘.search.’)

    • By WebOsPublisher

      403 Forbidden
      You don’t have permission to access /downloads/freeware/animated/search/icon/
      on this server.
      Additionally, a 403 Forbidden
      error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.

About Real-Time Advice

  • How breaking news — in the markets, Washington, and around the world — affects you and your money. Have a question about how current events may change your financial future? Email us at