Establishing a brand and selling online can be tricky. Just when I wrapped my head around what MAP (Minimum Advertised Price) was, I found myself confronted with another concept: MAP Monitoring. I soon learned that it's not always enough to establish a MAP policy to standardize prices -- it's also critical to for brands to track what's going on to keep resellers honest. Here's what I picked up on in exploring the idea of MAP monitoring, why it's so critical for brands and how it is usually accomplished.
Refresher On MAP
For those who are still lost on what MAP is, here's a quick reminder. It stands for Minimum Advertised Price, and it's defined as the lowest price at which a retailer is supposed to advertise a manufacturer's product for sale.
For example, the manufacturer of "Brand X" jeans sets their MAP at $125, then online retailers set themselves in a position to sell Brand X jeans to consumers. The retailers must sell those jeans at $125 or more, lest they are in violation of the MAP policy.
Brands and manufacturers use these MAP policy agreements to help keep the advertisements for their products fairly standard across the outlets that are selling them. Unfortunately for brands, though, these agreements don't always work out as intended.
Where MAP Monitoring Comes Into Play
While MAP agreements are supposed to set the pricing stage, resellers don't always follow them. In some cases, they may do so with no ill-will in mind. The competitive pressures of other e-commerce retailers may just be forcing them to lower prices to stay in the game. In other cases, resellers might take advantage of leaks in the supply chain, obtaining products and selling them for less to gain an advantage over competitors. In both scenarios, a brand's reputation can be at stake. Even in situations where the brand is compensated in full for the products resellers obtain, the act of resellers advertising those products below the established MAP can create confusion among consumers. They might start to wonder why they don't see that low price everywhere, and, in many cases, they'll blame the brand for this inconsistency (not the rogue reseller).
The first step is listing their products and the means by which to identify them. It could be the numbers related to the products (serial numbers, SKUs, etc.), or could also be specific text, images, video and similar content related to the products in question. Whatever the means, these identifiers are clearly identifiable and allow brands to track their products regardless of where they are being sold online.
With this base of products and identifiers to work from, brands can then go about establishing the system of systematically checking for their products and determining if their MAP is being followed correctly. This might take the form of a manual system, wherein they assign a team the task of reviewing e-commerce outlets at regular intervals, or it could take the form of some automated software that performs these checks based on criteria set forth by the brand.
Whichever route they pursue, brands have to take care to ensure their monitoring is efficient enough to catch all price aberrations, as well as flexible enough to recognize when certain reseller "tricks" are being used to skirt the rules. For instance, some reseller platforms have a "best price" offer that reveals deep discounts upon clicking, even though they are still advertising the price at or above the MAP. If a brand's MAP considers this a violation, the monitoring process would need to be robust enough to keep such scenarios in mind and check for them vigorously.
With all that in place, brands can go to work monitoring, detailing when and if their MAP has been violated, gathering the supporting evidence to prove their claims, then moving on to enforcing the MAP where necessary. It's a rather involved process, and in the case of some brands, one that the manual route isn't sufficient in handling.
In addition to the aforementioned reseller trickery that can disguise when a MAP policy is being violated, there's also the fact that even well-staffed teams, dedicated strictly to monitoring, can only perform their duties so often. There could be a whole host of outlets that are selling a brand's products, with new, unauthorized ones popping up from time to time as well. How would a team catch wind of these? There are also situations where resellers will periodically change their pricing back to the MAP if they have a sense they are being monitored, then lower those prices again once they feel they are in the clear. If a manual team can only check once or twice a day, those efforts may well be in vain. For these reasons, many brands choose to automate the monitoring process with software, although the final decision will take into account how complicated the overall process will be.
Trade Vitality is well versed in all these tactics and our map monitoring software will help you get the edge you need to be successful with your brand's policy.