How Merchants Combat Inflation without Raising Prices

An increase in productivity could result from automation, marketing optimization, hiring remote workers, or using a third-party fulfillment service to position products nearer to customers.
Adjust the business model. Not all ecommerce or retail business models are equal in the face of rising inflation. The current market might be a great time to extend or update how a given business earns a profit.
In the end, a price increase might be necessary. But if it can find new opportunities, a business could buck the inflationary trend and even gain profit.


What if merchants didn’t have to boost prices to remain profitable?
Flaviar sells subscriptions to “tasting boxes” of whiskeys, gins, and vodkas.
Consider combining the price increase with one of the strategies above.
Before increasing prices, a company should consider its business model, product mix, market position, and overall productivity.
For example, direct-to-consumer brand Italic supplements ecommerce sales with membership revenue. It uses the same factories as the spendy brands to manufacture apparel and home goods but sells them for less. And it offers a per year membership for exclusive access and support.


Merchants might cut underperforming SKUs, add private label products, bundle items to add value, or reduce quantities to keep prices stable — think an 8-ounce package instead of a 10 ounce.
Prices for everything appear to be on the rise in the U.S. Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its Producer Price Index for February 2022, reporting wholesale prices had moved up 0.8% for the month. For the past year, wholesale prices have shot up 10%.
Modify market position. Here the aim might be to shift from one market to another.
Home page of Flaviar showing three small liquor bottles
Flaviar is a liquor discovery subscription. It shares spirits via themed “tasting boxes” and provides subscribers access to allocated inventory and co-created whiskeys, gins, and vodkas.
Another example is FloorFound, a recommerce business. The company collects oversized returns such as furniture from other retailers. It then inspects those items and resells them, helping the original retailer reduce costs and recover revenue.
Consider a small DTC start-up brand as an example. Fiber Sports started by making an injection-molded armor for hockey stakes but pivoted to industrial footwear to find a much larger market.

Home page of Flaviar showing three small liquor bottles
Increase productivity. Boosting productivity can be an alternative to raising prices and does not necessarily mean cutting corners.

Materials, finished goods, and even labor costs are rising, and businesses are starting to react.

Inflation is on the rise. Hordes of retailers are raising prices and frustrating shoppers without exploring alternatives.
The National Federation of Independent Business, a free-market advocacy group, reported that 79% of American retailers surveyed last month had increased prices. Price hikes are not surprising but could be unnecessary.
Koenigsberg is one of many who believe the problem of inflation may represent an opportunity for businesses to improve.
Oded Koenigsberg, deputy dean and a professor of marketing at London Business School, described the dilemma succinctly in a Harvard Business Review article.
Update the product offering. Ask if your business is selling the right products for the current, inflation-infected market and consider updates that do not raise consumer prices.
Despite its best efforts, a company may still have to raise prices due to inflation. But here, too, could be an opportunity.

Prices May Still Rise

“The classic response to inflation is to select one of three unattractive options. Managers can upset their customers by raising prices, upset their investors by cutting margins, or upset practically everyone by cutting corners to cut costs,” Koenigsberg wrote.
For that matter, consider Shopify. The company started when a couple of guys tried to create an ecommerce snowboarding shop and now makes around billion in annual revenue.
For example, Koenigsberg, the marketing professor, noted some businesses that had competed on price could have undervalued products. Those companies could raise the price and the prestige of the product, selling at something near full value.

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