Columbus 2020: ORIS Intelligence

Mike Mahoney
Pamela Springer, President and CEO, ORIS Intelligence

For some of the most popular products in the world, the internet has become a downward spiral of price-cutting, but ORIS (Online Retail Intelligence Solutions) is always on guard.

Most frequently on weekends, after business hours and during the holiday rush, some sellers and re-sellers can't resist lowering prices to capture more business. That undercuts the minimized advertised price, or MAP, of nearly every manufacturer selling on the net.

“We work with large world-class brands selling online who hire us to patrol to make sure not only that authorized sellers are selling at the right price, but also that unauthorized sellers aren't clogging the authorized online sellers,” says Pamela Springer, ORIS Intelligence president and CEO. ORIS employs 20 now and will expand to 25 by year's end.

ORIS's online PROWL service crawls the e-commerce web, providing proof of MAP violations and a web-based platform for brands to write warning notices to online violators—even threatening a yearlong cutoff in the case of repeated violations. PROWL checks every seller, every product, every three hours, seven days a week.

“We capture the information on who moves first, and we monitor so much that we can see the domino effect of who moves prices first, second, third and fourth—both the instigator and then who followed suit,” she says.

MAP policies have become crucial to protecting the brand reputation of ORIS customers like Continental Tire, bicycle retailer Finish Line, Great Day aluminum motorsports parts and InFocus, a computer projector maker that saw a 68-percent drop in MAP violations after subscribing.

Manufacturers and retailers can't collude with each other to fix prices, but a single brand can establish networks of authorized retailers who pledge to observe a minimum advertised price. That's why the Sony PlayStation 4 always comes up as $449.99, whether it's sold at Best Buy, B&H Photo, Sam's Club or the online retailer, Newegg.

“Increasingly, the good retailers won't sell a brand unless the brand is protecting its prices,” Springer says.

Amazon, smaller online marketplaces and even eBay resellers have come under fire for cutting prices below MAP. But it's not always Amazon's fault, Springer says. Often a smaller online seller will try to grow by cutting prices, and Amazon follows suit to guarantee it matches the lowest price.

PROWL helps manufacturers respond to price infractions on a timely basis through a vendor correspondence function in PROWL's dashboard-based web app. Brands have to be thorough and consistent, catching not only infractions they notice at one online platform, but all of them, or legal claims of preferential treatment ensue.

The kernel of the ORIS price-checks began at Spinlife, a Columbus-based wheelchair and medical transport manufacturer with its own need for price protection. Spinlife spun off its price-checking function in 2013, and the ORIS services went commercial two years later, when Springer signed on.

Springer, a veteran of startups and IPOs, believes it's an exciting time for technical firms in the Columbus Region, with new talent and ideas all the time.

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