• Tony Paul

Predatory Pricing of eCommerce companies in the pulse oximeter category: Data & Insights




With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the market for medical equipment for at-home health monitoring has witnessed a boom. One of the most commonly bought equipment is the pulse oximeter which is useful in monitoring the blood oxygen saturation levels along with the pulse rate, both within a short span of time.


The pulse oximeter market by revenue is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 9% during the period 2019-2025 and shall be worth $3.4 Billion by 2028.


Predatory Pricing of eCommerce companies in the pulse oximeter category:  Data & Insights

However, the rise in the need for pulse oximeters has also paved the way for sellers looking to leverage the demand rise and scam buyers through the sale of faulty/ineffective devices. This is evident by the rising number of people exposing faulty pulse oximeter products on social media. Owing to fear of the pandemic and the immense rise in demand, consumers are getting scammed to buy ineffective essential medical equipment.


At Datahut, we conducted an analysis of all of the pulse oximeter products available in the market. Our data contains 14 different fields and our findings have brought out some revelations.


With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the market for medical equipment for at-home health monitoring has witnessed a boom. One of the most commonly bought equipment is the pulse oximeter which is useful in monitoring the blood oxygen saturation levels along with the pulse rate, both within a short span of time.


For the last 5 years, we've been analyzing market data of hundreds of product categories for our customers. Our findings have often revealed brands and sellers conducting predatory pricing practices to get ahead of their competition.


Last year we performed an analysis of the predatory pricing of surgical masks.


What is Predatory Pricing


The classical definition of predatory pricing is as follows. Predatory pricing is the pricing of goods or services at such a low level that other firms cannot compete and are forced to leave the market.


Predatory pricing might look like it benefits the consumers because they get the product at cheap rates, but in reality - eliminating the competition paves the way to monopoly.


In the e-commerce scenario, predatory pricing is also used to lure or scam people into buying fake products. These sellers dump the same products under multiple names and descriptions and do high volume sales in a short period of time and then they disappear.



What good products have in common


The sellers in the pulse oximeter market have taken these predatory practices to a whole new level. To understand that, we should take a look at what good, trustworthy brands are doing with product listing.


  1. A good brand lists out all the details of their products and leaves out no important information. For example, a seller must not leave out fields like product description, warranty, etc.

  2. The field inputs should follow industry standards. For example “ This is a good product” is not an acceptable description.

  3. Trustworthy brands have a good number of reviews and ratings. There should also not be a huge difference between the number of ratings and reviews. For example, in the data set we are going to explore there is a brand with 700+ ratings and no reviews. This indicates a scammy product.

  4. From our analysis experience, trustworthy sellers don’t follow aggressive discounting practices ( but there are exceptions).

  5. The product copy of a trustworthy brand is always professional. For example, a reliable and authentic product will not have something like “ this is GOOD,,... products,... “ etc in the listing of a quality product. In the data, we are going to explore there are plenty of examples of unprofessional copywriting.

  6. Scammers try to make up for their bad reviews, low ratings, bad quality, etc using superlatives in their descriptions, title,s etc.


Let's now explore the pulse oximeter data.


We’ve extracted the pulse oximeter data from Flipkart. Before diving into the details, here are some interesting facts.


  1. There are 1453 products in the market.

  2. 770 products don’t have a product description at all.

  3. The top three brands in terms of the number of the products they sell do not have a description listed on the marketplace under the description section.

  4. A brand named SYARA has 124 products in the category, however, the total number of reviews across all their products is just 5.

  5. There are 45 products that use the following description. There is not even space or comma that is different. Good brands describe variations of the same model differently but here different products are described identically.


Predatory Pricing of eCommerce companies in the pulse oximeter category:  Data & Insights

4.The priciest product sells at Rs 7999 and the cheapest product sells at Rs 540.


5. The highest listed MRP or maximum retail price is 10000


6. A brand named SHYLOC has six products in the market.


There’s even more to come!


The Tools used for Analysis

1. Data Extraction: We used the data extraction platform of Datahut.

2. Data Cleaning: We used Openrefine, an open-source tool to work with messy data. In some cases, we used python scripts to work with the data.

3. Data Analysis: We loaded the data into a MySQL database and connected it to Metabase. Metabase is an open-source and unbelievably user-friendly tool to work with databases. You can use their UI for simple tasks and the native SQL editor to perform complex tasks.

4. Data Visualization: We used Tableau and Datawrapper for Visualizing the data.


Understanding the Data


We extracted the publicly available product data from Flipkart for the pulse oximeter category by leveraging Datahut’s proprietary data extraction platform. The data is available for download at the end of this blog.

An ideal product page is (https://www.flipkart.com/dr-trust-usa-signature-series-fingertip-audio-visual-alarm-water-resistant-midnight-black-pulse-oximeter/p/itmf3j842vbz9z5q?pid=POXEXFZ3VHK9RQ7G ) which has all the data attributes we are looking for.


The following data fields were extracted for each product:


1. Product URL: The product URL is the URL to the page which contains the product information. An example would be ( https://www.flipkart.com/vkare-fingertip-pulse-oximeter/p/itm48a03027b2ad1?pid=POXFNAFCBFJ4ZDDE)


2. Brand: Brand is the brand name of the product. An example is Dr. Trust (USA).


3. Sale Price: Sale price is the price point at which the product is being sold. The product with the most number of reviews is being sold at a price point of Rs 3999.


4. MRP: MRP is the maximum retail price of the product.


5. Discount_percentage: Discount percentage is the discount offered by the brand for that particular product.


6. Seller Name: Seller name is the company that distributes the product on the marketplace.


7. Seller Rating: Seller rating is the average rating given to the seller across their portfolio.


8. Number of ratings: The number of ratings is the total number of ratings for the product.


9. Number of reviews: The number of reviews is the total number of reviews for the product.


10. UPC: UPC or universal product code is the unique identification for a model. Eg: POXEXFZ3VHK9RQ7G


11. Star Rating of the product: The average star rating of the product. 12. Title: Title is the title of the product.


13. Description: Description is the description given to the product.



Market Share of brands in the Pulse oximeter category


As per our data, there are 446 brands selling pulse oximeters in India. We are showing the distribution of the inventory across different brands as a snapshot below in a doughnut chart.

Predatory Pricing of eCommerce companies in the pulse oximeter category:  Data & Insights

Here are our findings


  1. A brand named SYARA is selling 124 products.

  2. ROAR is a brand in the second position with 117 products.

  3. Guggu a brand bags the third position with 67 products.


Here is why we think the category is filled with products that are suspicious in nature. Here are some of our findings of the top three products in terms of their variety.


SYARA


  1. Even Though SYARA sells 124 products, only five of them have at least one rating and only three products have at least one review.

  2. None of their products have a description.

  3. The sales price of all 124 products of SYARA are Rs 1399.

  4. The average discount across all their products isare 53.73%


ROAR


  1. ROAR sells 117 products; only three products have at least one rating and only two products with at least one review.

  2. All ROAR products are priced under Rs 2000

  3. The Average sales price is Rs 1509.03

  4. None of the ROAR products have a description

  5. The average discount percentage across all their products is 59.12.


Guggu


  1. Guggu sells 67 products on the market and only five products have at least one rating, only three products have at least one review.

  2. One of their products has 766 ratings but no reviews and that is suspicious.

  3. None of the Guggu products have a description

  4. The average sale price is Rs 1416.87

  5. The average discount percentage across all their products is 46.6%.


The top three brands in terms of the number of products they sell don’t contain any product description. That represents 21% of the total inventory across all brands.


Want to dive deeper into the data? Visit this link for the complete data set visualized as a histogram. Link


Pricing Analysis of pulse oximeter brands


The pricing of the product is an important factor in winning the buy box. Here we take a look at the pricing and how brands price their product.


Sales price insights.


For the analysis, we split the entire category into price brackets of Rs 1000 each. A snapshot of the sale prices are available in the chart below.


Predatory Pricing of eCommerce companies in the pulse oximeter category:  Data & Insights

  1. The Average Sales price across all the products is 1691.59.

  2. The average sales price across all products with more than 10 reviews is Rs1736.03

  3. There are 31 products priced below Rs 1000 which is just 2.2% of the entire market. The lowest-priced product is priced at Rs 540.

  4. There are 1,233 products priced between Rs1000 and Rs 2000. This is 84.5% of the total market. This is where most of the brands compete.

  5. There are 155 products priced between 2000 - 3000 which is 10.6% of the market.

  6. There are 24 products priced between 3000 - 4000 which is just 1.65% of the market.


If you’d like to see a bar chart of the same data, check this link here - Link



MRP or Maximum retail price insights


By definition, the maximum retail price (MRP) is a manufacturer-calculated price that is the highest price that can be legally charged for a product sold. Some sellers are charging outrageous prices for an item like a pulse oximeter.

Predatory Pricing of eCommerce companies in the pulse oximeter category:  Data & Insights

Maximum retail price insights.


  1. The average MRP is Rs 3,493.39 across all the products.

  2. The average MRP across all products with more than 10 reviews is Rs 3,073.94

  3. There are no products with MRP under 1000, the cheapest product is priced at Rs 1250.

  4. There are 155 products with MRP between Rs 1000 - 2000, which is 10.3 % of the total inventory.

  5. There are 484 products with MRP between Rs 2000 - 3000 which is about 33% of the total inventory.

  6. There are 583 products with MRP between Rs 3000 - 4000 which is 40% the inventory.

  7. There are only 103 products priced above Rs 5000 and the product with the highest MRP is priced at Rs 10000.


If you’d like to see a bar chart of the same data, check this link here - Link


Comparing Sales Price and MRP


Look at the side-by-side comparison of the sales price and MRP. We use brackets of 1000 for comparison.


Predatory Pricing of eCommerce companies in the pulse oximeter category:  Data & Insights

See the link here for interactive visualization. Link


Discounts offered across the pulse oximeter category.


Discounts are an incentive for people to buy the products. Due to the effect of COVID-19 on the economy, people are trying to save every penny when they shop. Some sellers use this helpless situation to scam people. They offer huge discounts but the product quality is extremely poor. As Pawan Khatri pointed out here, the discounts are deeper

than Mariana Trench.


Check out the visualization below to see the distribution of discounts.



Predatory Pricing of eCommerce companies in the pulse oximeter category:  Data & Insights


See the discount insights and trends


  1. In the pulse oximeter category out of the total 1453 products, 1427 products are offering some sort of discount. That is over 98% of the products offering a discount.

  2. 804 products or 55% of the products are providing discounts over 50%


See the detailed visualization here: Link


Upon a manual inspection of the data, we found that many products that do not offer discounts have good ratings and reviews.



Reviews and Ratings


Ratings are one of the most crucial metrics used by brands to sell themselves in the market. Consumers often refer to star ratings before making a purchase decision. One of the drawbacks of this is review farms, these are people who write reviews for products without actually purchasing them and the brand pays them.



We are tracking four types of reviews & ratings. Let's explore one by one.


1. Seller Rating: Seller rating is the average rating given to the seller across their portfolio.


2. Number of ratings: The number of ratings is the total number of ratings for the product.


3. Number of reviews: The number of reviews is the total number of reviews for the product.


4. Star Rating of the product: The average star rating of the product.



Seller rating insights and findings


Seller rating is the average rating given to the seller across their portfolio.


  1. 127 listed products do not have a seller name.

  2. There are 384 unique sellers across the category and 125 of them have zero reviews.

Number of ratings


The rating is the total number of ratings given to each product.


  1. 1028 products out of 1453 products in the market don't have a single rating. That is 70.7% of the total inventory.

  2. One product has 783 ratings but no reviews

Number of reviews


The number of reviews is the total number of times a product is reviewed.


  1. 1085 products out of 1453 products in the market don't have a single review. That is 74.67 of the total inventory.

  2. The highest reviewed product has 2204 reviews.


Star Rating of the product.


The Star Rating reflects the average aggregated rating of a product. Usually, the marketplaces require the seller to have a minimum number of ratings to display their star rating.


  1. only 453 products out of 1453 products have a displayed star rating. That is 31.1%

  2. Only 73 products have a star rating of 4 or above. That is just 5% of the total inventory.

  3. Only 14 products have a star rating of 4 or above and have more than 100 ratings. That is less than 1% of the total inventory.


Product Description


Good Brands keep their unique identity when it comes to describing their product. In the pulse oximeter market, 770 products listed online do not have a description. That is 52% of the market. In our analysis of hundreds of categories, we have never seen missing descriptions of this scale.


There are cases of products using identical descriptions. Not similar, but identical.


  1. 45 products share the following description “ Bright OLED Display: The bright OLED display allows use in any environment - from dark surrounding to bright sunlight. || Portable and Lightweight: The small size of the oximeter makes it easy for you to carry around in your everyday life. || How to ensure the accuracy of your measurement? || 1. Moving too fast will affect the accuracy; try to stay still while waiting for your reading. || 2.When the oxygen saturator and the heart are at the same level, the measurement results are optimal. || 3. Avoid nail polish or long nails on the finger used for the reading. Fingers should not be wet at all either. || 4. Ring finger, middle finger and index finger are recommended as suitable monitor position

  2. 43 products share the following description “ Oxygenated blood absorbs light preferentially at 940nm (near infra-red light), whereas deoxygenated blood absorbs light preferentially at 660nm(red light). A pulse oximeter works by passing a beam of red and infra-red light through a pulsating capillary bed and then measures the amount of red and infra-red light emerging from the tissues via sensor. The relative absorption of light by oxyhemoglobin (HbO) and deoxyhemoglobin is then processed according to the Beer-Lambert’s law and the oxygen saturation level (SpO2) determined. For Home, Hospital, Sports or Aviation use. “

Just before finalizing this report, we extracted the data again from the same category. The number of products in the category increased to 1876. Almost 30% increase in the number of available products in a matter of days. This data can also be downloaded at the end of this report


Oxygen saturation in the blood is the key indicator of whether a COVID19 patient is getting better or getting worse. A pulse oximeter is a piece of equipment to identify the oxygen saturation levels. If a person buys and uses a faulty/low-quality pulse oximeter, two things can happen.


1 - The patient is getting worse, the oxygen saturation level is dropping but the pulse oximeter doesn't show the drop.


2 - The patient is getting better, the oxygen saturation level is normal but the pulse oximeter shows a drop in oxygen saturation level. It could cause confusion during their prognosis in a pandemic like COVID19.



In the above analysis, we’ve attempted to expose practices that are used to scam buyers, and in turn, run the risk of affecting a COVID-9 patient gravely. The above analysis brings to light that the sales and quality assurance of essential health equipment needs to be regulated.


Link to download the data used in the above analysis: Oximeter Data Link


Some good reads:


  1. The Hoodwink of Discounts: Predatory Pricing and E-Commerce

  2. India Lawsuit Against Flipkart Highlights Discounting Concerns

  3. Probing 'predatory' pricing by Flipkart, Amazon: Piyush Goyal

  4. Discounts Deeper Than Mariana Trench: Predatory Pricing by Indian E-Commerce Giants


Related reads on the Datahut Blog:


  1. The Indian Washing Machine Market: Product Category Analysis and Insights

  2. The Indian Smartphone Market Analysis & Insights

  3. Nike vs Adidas: Competitive Analysis with Data Visualizations



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