Is Amazon a price leader?

| Blog Posts
Amazon price leader blog image

October 27, 2017 

If you shop on line you’ve probably noticed that the price on Amazon for the same item can be different across many marketplace participants.  You may have noticed too that prices will change over the course of a day and, at times, over an hour.  Pricing is dynamic.  There are many factors driving dynamic pricing but the most critical is that the key sellers have algorithms that responds to competitors’ pricing.  For this reason, a price leader in the e-tail market is far more disruptive than in traditional brick and mortar retail.

Walmart is a globally recognized retail leader. It became the biggest retailer on the planet by being a price leader. With Amazon’s market entrance, Walmart saw its sales impacted and their stock value going down. As the leader they are, Walmart started their ‘fight back’ strategy.

Walmart has been selling online for some time however they knew they needed to improve their strategy to re-take share.  They acquired, with a great eCommerce leadership team then, leveraging on their existing stores, Walmart started to be much more aggressive online. They offer free shipping for orders above $35 and many items are exclusively available only online with attractive discounts.

Interestingly Amazon has done a great job convincing consumers that they are the cheapest, or at least offer fantastic value for money. Attractive promotions and superb public relations has been their key to attract more customers. They slashed the prices by 43% on the very first day after acquiring Wholefoods. Prices at Wholefoods have always been at the “top-end”. But now, after the “perception management” around pricing that Amazon has engineered, customers will start to change their view on pricing available from these stores.

Amazon+ Wholefoods = Amazon retail stores (looking more like Walmart)

Because of Amazon’s great perception management, it has been very successful in managing the interests of all its stakeholders - consumers, marketplace sellers and most of all, stock holders.


We think this is a super smart strategy.


However, in reality Amazon is a price follower rather than a price leader.  Amazon is constantly monitoring their own site, across all their platforms, and scraping the entire web to find competitive pricing and adjusting their price accordingly.  One frustration from Amazon is when a ‘rogue’ trader offers highly discounted pricing on a product and negatively impacts margins.  Enter a price leader.  As Amazon follows pricing down two things often happen.  Amazon asks the supplier of that product to pay Amazon for lost margin or they suppress the item meaning it won’t turn up most searches.  In both cases this can be challenging for suppliers doing significant business with Amazon.  Through these policies Amazon is making it clear that they hold suppliers responsible for managing pricing across the internet.


Will this ‘price follower’ strategy change? In the United States, there are MAP agreements to contend with, but in Europe, competition laws and the approach to resale price maintenance means that MAP is not allowed. Amazon is at an advantage with its existing online presence and now its expansion into bricks and mortar. We think it unlikely they will change their fundamental pricing policy.


As a manufacturer, you need to carefully consider and control your product placement and pricing across all channels and platforms.  Good management will contribute to the health of your eCommerce channel as well as your more traditional routes to market. It can seem daunting but can be done effectively and profitably.  Look out for future blogs that will help with tips and tactics that ensure your pricing is in-line with your objectives as well as that of Amazon’s.



Gordon Christiansen


Gordon is a 54 year old Australian who was born in Denmark, lived in the UK for 27 years and now wants to live in Atlanta.  After breaking his father’s heart by leaving the family ships’ chandlering business in Fremantle, Australia Gordon embarked on a career in sales and marketing with Pitney Bowes and Canon before investing in and running an office products and graphic arts dealership in London called London Graphic Centre.  Gordon is passionate about getting corporate messaging 100% clear and how alignment between marketing strategy, execution and sales effort will enhance and accelerate market penetration for Highlands’ clients.


Outside family, the things Gordon enjoys the most are cricket, Australian Rules football, music and socializing with good friends, good wine and good food.  So, for anyone interested in learning the intricacies of cricket or Aussie Rules I’m sure Gordon can be bribed with a charcuteries plate and a decent red.


Gordon is a partner at Highlands.

Submit a Comment
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Follow us

Contact Us

Contact Highlands today for a complete picture of what our expert teams can do to drive sales for your brand.