With differentiated products, consumers may not be aware of the quality and features of the products they buy. They are often unable to make a quality comparison among various brands. Moreover, they often gather little information even when the financial commitment involved is substantial. A popular belief is: ‘You get what you pay for.’ Therefore, consumers tend to believe that high price is an indicator of better quality. Although many studies conducted on price-quality relationship have supported this belief, there are other studies that have found the relationship to be product-specific and weak in general.
This study seeks to examine the relationship between the price of the product and the buyers' perception of quality in respect of durable, semi-durable, and non-durable products in the Indian context. Three products were selected for the purpose of the study: colour television as a durable product; T-shirt as a semi-durable product; and toothpaste as a non-durable product. Data were collected from the primary sources with the help of a non-disguised, pre-structured questionnaire.
In particular, the authors sought to explore answer to two questions: (1) Does high price have a positive influence on the buyers' perception of product quality? (2) Is there a significant difference in the buyers' perception of the quality of products falling in different price ranges?
The major findings of the study are as follows: For a durable product, like colour television, setting the price too low will negatively affect the quality image of the product and the consumer would be reluctant to buy a low-priced brand as it might lower his image in the society. Pricing it reasonably high will give the product a high-quality image. However, the marketer should take care of the competitors' pricing policies and the buyers' purchasing power. The target market for T-shirt in India consists mainly of the young, especially the college students, having limited purchasing power. They prefer local, or little known, but trendy brands of T-shirts rather than expensive ones. Also, they would opt for a T-shirt of a reputed brand if it is within their purchasing power. However, reducing the price of the T-shirt may dilute its brand image. Hence, the marketer of the T-shirt should think of market segmentation strategies and select the appropriate target segment(s) and price the product accordingly. For toothpaste, brand reputation is a critical factor and the marketer should price the product according to the reputation enjoyed by the brand. However, the price-quality relationship for this product has been found to be weak in comparison to colour television and T-shirt. The marketer, therefore, should be wary of charging a very low price as it would create an inferior quality image in the mind of the buyer.
The findings have important marketing implications for pricing, market segmentation, target marketing, and product positioning.