Way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was working as a fax machine analyst, I would spend one week a month arm wrestling my arch nemesis: The Computer Shopper. The Computer Shopper was a mail-order catalog the size of a phone book, hundreds of pages thick, and each page was a product showcase of a single mail-order reseller who took out an ad. Think of The Computer Shopper as a hardback and vastly more complicated version of Google Shopping.

Ink Rub

With each new monthly edition of The Computer Shopper, I would mechanically turn the pages, review every mail-order shops’ fax machine selection, and punch the data into an excel spreadsheet. Collecting pricing from the Computer Shopper was five days of enhanced interrogation that would leave my fingers black in rubbed paper ink.

Over time, I began to memorize the name and location of each mail-order reseller including my personal favorite: PC Fax of Brooklyn, New York. PC Fax’s section in The Computer Shopper was always loaded with fax machines and aggressive prices. Sometimes I would have to call PC Fax to verify one of their super-low prices and they were always gloriously rude and callous on the phone.

I once shared my admiration of PC Fax to a manufacturer client and they replied “No one cares about PC Fax, because they might sell two boxes a month.”

For the next two decades, small, low volume shops that didn’t have the advertising budget to get people to notice them were all but ignored by the industry. The Computer Shopper resellers were collectively a bunch of castaways on an island of misfit stores.

Not anymore.

Pricing Compliance

Amazon’s Marketplace has built a 250 lane, high-speed, toll free superhighway from the island of misfit stores to the mainland of Joe Consumers. PC Fax and all the other stores are now front and center to hundreds of millions of eyeballs. These small time shops are now selling at big time volumes and they can no longer be ignored by manufacturers - especially their super-low cut-throat prices.

Since the Great Depression there have been laws written to govern the price practice of Minimum Advertised Price (MAP). The laws intended to prevent unfair pricing practices between manufacturers and preferred retailers. The government didn’t want Apple to give Walmart the iPhone for $10, while sending the same iPhone to Amazon for $1,000 in an effort to put Amazon out of business, for example, and it is up to the manufacturer to enforce their MAP policies and keep their retail partners in line. Since the beginning, manufacturers and their retail partners ignored the PC Faxes of the world when they offered below MAP prices on their products because the PC Faxes sold at such low volumes. Today, however, the millions of eyeballs and resulting sales that the PC Faxes earn through online marketplaces have placed enormous pressure on manufacturers to enforce their MAP policies on everyone.

The problems facing manufacturers come from many angles. Clearly cut-throat prices impact manufacturers’ profitability and cannibalize sales of their regularly priced products. Aggressively low prices also hurt a company’s brand equity, as ultra low prices pull the product and brand down in perceived, quality, value, and esteem. Arguably the most pressure comes from giant national retailers, who are required to abide by MAP policies and are therefore outraged to lose a sale to a tiny shop with an unmatchable low price. As a result, when a national chain sees a below MAP price, they demand the same price from the manufacturer, which further erodes margins.

MAP/UPP price policy enforcement has become a critical operation for our clients and the execution and enforcement of the programs is especially complicated. Companies must somehow monitor hundreds of products across hundreds of resellers every single day. To execute MAP policy programs, a company needs an effective combination of technology, process, and people.

Meet Lookout

This is why we are proudly launching Lookout by gap intelligence, a MAP/UPP enforcement service that combines our technology and processes that produce the industry’s most trusted data with the flexibility and personal touch of a human driven service.

In the blogs to come, you will read about our proprietary software technology that quickly captures thousands of price points and screenshots to catch MAP violators in the act. Our Research Group will detail the care and passion we put into creating “Craft Data”. We are obsessed with publishing only the most accurate and comprehensive data in the industry. Our GFD (Great Freakin’ Data) will save our clients countless hours of frustration by avoiding false violations and missed culprits. You’ll also read about the custom nature of MAP policy enforcement as no two companies’ programs are the same. gap intelligence handles these complexities by offering a dedicated product specialist who can provide custom data cuts and observations, and give analytical insights on how to better MAP policy enforcement in the future.

Lookout by gap intelligence is one of our most significant launches in a decade. We can’t wait to show the world how our combination of technology, crafted GFD, and people is the best in class.

Hello world, this is Lookout by gap intelligence.

For more than 15 years, gap intelligence has served manufacturers and sellers by providing world-class services monitoring, reporting, and analyzing the 4Ps: prices, promotions, placements, and products. Email us at info@gapintelligence.com or call us at 619-574-1100 to learn more.