Customers are increasingly comparing products online. A product's features and prices have become more transparent because of the Internet. In addition, online product reviews make it possible to learn about other customers' product experiences. It has thus become easier to judge price to quality ratios. An example of an international website that allows products to be compared and delivers maximal transparency is FindTheBest, which, in addition to product features and prices, shows reviews not only from customers, but also from experts.
Despite these positive developments, the transparency in information about products and customers might sometimes be lost when in addition to comparing products and advising customers, some websites sell the presented products themselves. This makes it uncertain whether such a site is being impartial or rather pushing customers to the products that provide the best margin. And even if comparison websites refer to other online sellers, they could be receiving an affiliate fee and therefore run the risk of losing objectivity in comparing products and prices in a transparent way.
The Internet is not only tearing down many barriers, but is also game–changing, for example in the way that products are offered to customers. The Internet enables new types of product offerings to target groups. Two examples of these new types are the following. The first is iBood, a company that simply puts one product on offer in their webshop every day. As this offer is mostly quite attractive in terms of pricing and available in limited quantities, this concept has become very popular in Europe; it currently exists in 19 countries. This new way of product offering is enabled by the Internet and could otherwise never have been successful. Since its inception, there have been a number of 'copy cats'.
The second example of rather new ways of offering products is the product auction. eBay is the most famous company using the auction principle, and it has been copied many times in all kinds of business sectors. Hotels and flights are often sold via this auction model to fill empty seats or rooms: as soon as a certain percentage of seats or rooms have been sold, prices go up. For innovative online start-up companies, this way of offering products is not new at all. But the majority of traditional companies that sell online do not use innovative product offerings at all. If they do, it is mostly for real–life auctions where bids are also taken online. Traditional companies with a traditional way of pricing are yet to adopt these innovative online tools, which will allow them to enter new markets. At the same time, the effects of this new kind of pricing system have to be thought through thoroughly, since there is the risk of a big effect on turnover and net profit when switching to this kind of pricing model. This would only be feasible if beta tests with limited customer groups show limited risks. These pricing models are by default much easier for online startups to implement, which unlike traditional companies do not have to defend current revenues and margins.