Gaudet: Price now secondary to customer experience

Shopping experience, convenience and product guarantee are likely perceived by consumers as more important than the price of an item, according to marketing expert Charles Gaudet.

Shopping experience, convenience and product guarantee are likely perceived by consumers as more important than the price of an item, according to marketing expert Charles Gaudet.

Gaudet pointed to the recent ForeSee E-Retail Satisfaction Index that found Americans were less price-sensitive during the latest holiday season compared to 2010.

Furthermore, perennial leader in perceived low prices, Walmart, is apparently losing its grip on consumer confidence, as WSL/Strategic Retail's How America Shops Report found that 86 percent of respondents no longer believe the retailer has the lowest prices.

"Any time a business competes on price, they run the risk of becoming marginalized and commoditized in the eyes of their customer," said Gaudet.

Gaudet explains that experience (such as ease of store navigation and friendly staff), convenience (i.e. 24/7 support or free shipping) and product guarantee (for example, painless return policies), trump price for today's consumer and increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.

He cites shoe company Zappos as a leader in this space, which recently ranked No. 1 in STELLAService's survey of retail delivery times for holiday gifts, averaging just two days for standard shipping.