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For example, if I were a user with a recurring monthly service (e.g., online banking), I'd want an email notification of the price increase well before it happens.
However, if I'm a user on a general ecommerce site, I won't care that you're increasing the cost of various products.
In fact, if you point out to me that you just raised the price of blue widgets and I were on your site to buy blue widgets, this would probably prompt me to go comparison shopping.
A "hit and buy" ecommerce site is another matter, change the prices of your products every day if you like.
Some forms of pricing changes I would want to be warned of. eg if Overture/Google AdWords were to put their prices up, if my merchant account were to put their fees up. ie if I have a 'contract' with them.
If you provide a service, on a repeated basis, I
would definitely inform the customer.
Its amazing, how customers will not complain about
price increases in stores, but will go through the
roof if there cable bill goes up 50 cents.
In that sense, it may be a good idea to also include in the msg:
1. A date that prices will increase on.
2. A reason for the increase, IF it won't offend customers (ie. don't say "We want more money" but if the reason is "Increased costs from our suppliers" then a customer is more likely to understand!)
Giving a fair amount of time for the warning might be a good idea also. And how about combining it with a "pre-price-rise sale"? If you have any customers subscribed to mailing lists for brochures etc, it might be a convenient way to inform them of an intended price rise (especially if they are repeat customers - you hardly want to surprise them with increased prices when next they return to your site). That way, existing customers who don't log into your site during the "warning" period are still notified! (No spam though)
However, I don't think it's necessary to tell the customer that you have just increased prices. Then they'd just be kicking themselves for having missed out on the lower price, and as Hawkgirl said, may encourage them to do some price comparisons with other sites. If they pose a query (probably only in the case of repeat customers) as to why prices have increased, you can always claim that you gave them fair warning....