More and more ski areas rely on dynamic price models.
Family B.* is a regular guest in the Sörenberg LU ski area and experienced their blue miracle on Sunday. The mountain railways introduced dynamic prices at the weekend. The family therefore paid significantly more than last winter. “From our point of view, that’s an absolute cheek!” Said Hans B.* to Blick.
With the introduction, the Sörenberg ski area has followed a trend in the Swiss mountain railway industry that has been going on for years. More and more railways rely on varying prices, which they calculate based on several factors. In Sörenberg, data from the past, the demand for the day in question, the short-term weather forecast and the time of purchase are included. The earlier a guest books, the cheaper the ski pass is.
Other industries also have dynamic prices based on the microeconomic principle of demand and supply. Put simply: the greater the demand, the higher the prices. Blick shows in which sectors dynamic prices also occur.
If you fly to London over the weekend and are looking for accommodation for Saturday to Sunday, you will pay more on online platforms such as Booking.com than on a Monday. The demand for a hotel room is also greater on public holidays – the overnight stay is correspondingly more expensive. Some platforms even pay attention to whether a visitor has visited the website before. With each viewing, the price increases slightly.
Two drinks for the price of one: What is common in party destinations like Mallorca (Spain) is also available in Switzerland. Bars lure their guests to the tables earlier with a happy hour. Or they sell the drinks more expensive at the weekend from the late evening. When it comes to meals, however, many restaurateurs use less obvious tactics. At lunchtime they offer relatively inexpensive menus. In the evening, when customers are willing to pay more, in some places guests can only order more expensive multi-course meals. The fact that the same meal costs more on Friday or Saturday evening, when demand is highest in many restaurants, has not yet established itself in the Swiss catering industry.
The airline industry is one of the pioneers of the dynamic price model. Depending on the time and demand, the prices for flights change. When a flight from Zurich to Miami (USA) is barely full a few days before departure, bargains suddenly beckon. However, if flights are booked months in advance, the prices rise rapidly.
A steak or a sack of carrots in the evening only costs half as much? Dynamic prices are still not very common in retail. The companies fear that acceptance by customers will be difficult. Nevertheless, the big retailers such as Migros or Coop offer discounts in the evening, which attract customers who are looking for bargains. Or the cake goes away at a reduced price before the weekend. Many a customer spontaneously thinks, why not something sweet for the Sunday coffee wreath? Migros has also relied on individual discount campaigns for years. For example, owners of a Cumulus points card receive discounts on more expensive alternatives to products that they like to buy.
Anyone who orders a ride with Uber on New Year’s Eve pays three or four times as much for the same route. Vehicle service brokers such as Uber call the model “surge pricing”. Means: The prices are multiplied by different factors depending on the situation and demand. In contrast to hotel or flight bookings, for example, this is displayed transparently to the customer.
The SBB have not yet arrived at dynamic prices. Whether at peak times or at 10 p.m. – the fare from Basel to Bern is the same. But the SBB allows passengers to travel cheaper from 9 a.m. when the commuter rush hour is over. And they have known so-called supersaver tickets for a number of years. These are available from 60 days before travel. If you book early enough, you can enjoy a discount. However, if the demand for a route is particularly high on a certain day, the supersaver tickets may be sold out.
A pair of pants or a TV that costs double at a given point in time? This is now part of everyday life for online shops such as the clothing mail order company Zalando or the electronics retailer Digitec Galaxus. Retailers have vast amounts of customer data and adjust their prices based on the current demand for a particular product. This can happen within hours, days or weeks. If a customer buys a laptop, the prices displayed for additional products such as laptop cases or mobile chargers tend to increase in online retail.
If you fly on vacation and leave your car at Zurich Airport, you should book your parking ticket days in advance. Zurich Airport introduced dynamic prices for its car parks in 2020 so that they can be used more efficiently. The distance from the car park to the terminal also plays a role: the greater the distance, the higher the price incentives and discounts.
Dynamic pricing models are ubiquitous today. Accordingly, one could assume that acceptance among the population has increased over the years. However, Hans Peter Wehrli, emeritus professor of business administration at the University of Zurich, doubts this. “We can hardly speak of voluntary acceptance here. With these dynamic prices, customers are much more likely to be forced to participate.”
Even if bargains are possible here and there: According to Wehrli, such models would have the disadvantage for customers that they are very non-transparent. The consumer is often unable to understand how the prices are determined and when, making it difficult to predict the best time to make a purchase.
There is a simple reason why dynamic price models have become so popular with providers: “They can use them to optimize their utilization and skim off the maximum willingness to pay of their consumers,” says Wehrli.
He therefore assumes that dynamic prices will become established in other sectors in the future with the growing amount of information about customers. “For any commodity where there are shortages and demand varies, there is an incentive for dynamic prices.” The model is now also widespread among providers of concert tickets. The ticket sellers are therefore often accused of a rip-off mentality.
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