Black Friday just an illusion? Consumer advice center informs about algorithmic sales tricks
Everyone has probably already noticed: prices for online shopping are no longer the same for everyone interested in buying. In addition, they can change significantly in a very short time – sometimes several times within the same day.
The German Bundestag launched the nationwide project “Economic Consumer Protection”. The Ministry of Consumer Protection has now implemented this in cooperation with the consumer advice center.
Consumers should be made transparent about the influencing factors that play a role in price dynamics in online retail. This is exactly what the fictitious online shop is supposed to do WasistdeinPreis.de Afford. It can be visited under various typical customer profiles and then shows how price algorithms are used to make different offers to different visitors.
Unlike in stationary retail, prices in online shops change very frequently and very strongly. Some online retailers regularly change the price of parts of their range. We already know that from gasoline prices, which also change depending on the time of day and day of the week. While the fluctuations in fuel prices are still relatively easy to predict, things look very different in online retail.
Because here it can depend on many factors which goods and services are shown to consumers at which prices. Of course, the timing also plays a role here, as does the prices of the competition. The users themselves are also becoming increasingly important.
Because online retailers today know the surfing behavior of their customers, their interests, previous purchase research, but also their locations very precisely. In the simplest case, this initially only means that certain articles are prominently placed on the shop’s homepage.
The most important currency that customers use to pay before they even add a product to their shopping cart is personal data. That is why the consumer advice center recommends various simple measures.
Regularly deleting browser cookies, for example, makes it more difficult for shop operators to create profiles of buyers. Those who shy away from the hassle can also set their browser so that cookies are automatically deleted when the browser window is closed.
But even without cookies, very precise profiles can be developed with a little effort. Because, for example, via the individual browser settings and the installed plugins, so-called fingerprints or “supercookies” can still be created. The more individual the settings and the more diverse your own plugin portfolio, the more precise the fingerprint will be. In this way, user profiles can be clearly assigned.
If you want to prevent this, you should surf in incognito mode and hide the IP address. Specialized browser plugins help to prevent data transmission to website operators. If you use Facebook, you can assume that likes and dislikes also have an impact on the specific price – at least in the case of large shops.
In addition to avoiding divulging personal data, those interested in buying can proceed in a similar way to filling up the vehicle – namely to buy when others are not buying. It’s pure business management: if demand falls, the price falls. So if you want to buy Christmas gifts just before Christmas, for example, you will certainly pay the highest prices.
In addition, the consumer advice center advises to ignore supposedly particularly exclusive offers, often referred to as “secret deals” or super bargains. These supposed bargains are often more expensive than regular offers. As a general rule, it should always be considered what the personally acceptable price for a product or service is. The question “Do I really need this?” Should be put in front of it.
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