The Psychology of Strategic Pricing

pricingAnyone just starting out with an ecommerce business on Amazon, eBay, or Shopify is likely to stress when they get to pricing their product. Choosing the right price can be daunting – you wonder if it’s too high and scaring away buyers, or too low and cutting into your profits. The price picking process (say that 3 times fast!) isn’t just a challenge for ecommerce rookies. Even experienced sellers fret over pricing. It doesn’t have to be that way though. Pricing your products so they fly off the shelves is possible when you apply a little bit of psychology to understand how your buyers think.

Every price you set should be done with intentionality – which price is going to be profitable for you and appealing to your customer? Simple calculations can tell you what will be profitable for you, but it takes understanding how and what buyers think to know what price will appeal to them. That’s where using some psychological concepts comes into play. It’s when you get both parts right – profitability and appealing to your customer – that you will see an increase in sales.

Below are five pricing strategies you can employ to make your products more attractive to your customers. All of these strategies are backed by psychological research, so even though some may seem counterintuitive, they have worked in the past, and are worth giving a try.

Understand How Weber’s Law Applies to Pricing

It may seem a bit complicated, but Weber’s Law is worth getting to know and understand. It’s a principle often used in marketing. Here’s one example of how Weber’s Law works: Imagine you are holding a 5 lb. bag of sugar. If you weren’t looking and someone added another tablespoon of sugar to the bag, would you notice? Probably not. But, if someone added another pound of sugar to the bag, you would surely notice the difference. Somewhere between that tablespoon and one pound of sugar is the “just noticeable” difference – the point at which you are able to perceive a difference in the weight of the sugar. Weber’s Law says the “just noticeable” difference in something is proportional to how big the original thing was. When applied to price changes, the “just noticeable” difference seems to be about 10%. That means that if the price of a product is changed by up to 10%, customers are not that likely to perceive a difference, or if they do, they tend to accept it. This number isn’t ironclad, of course, but the next time you consider increasing the price of a product, it can serve as a good jumping-off point.

Use Price Anchoring

Price anchoring is when a buyer uses an initial piece of information to make subsequent judgements. In sales, it is used to appeal to a customer’s desire to get a good deal. For example, imagine you have a watch that is priced at $100. It may be a good, competitive price for that particular item, but when you place a similar watch next to it that is priced at $250, the first watch looks even better. The customer feels like they are getting a deal with the $100 watch. And hey, if you sell the $250 watch to some customers, bonus for you.

Be Precise in Your Pricing

Studies have shown that using precise prices (odd numbers or decimals) makes the pricing more believable to customers. For instance, a laptop priced at $783 or $817 seems to have a higher value to customers than the same laptop priced at $800. This strategy is an easy one to implement. Even changing the price of a product minimally – $400 to $399 – can change a customer’s perception of value.

Simplify Your Prices

According to a paper from the Journal of Consumer Psychology, customers are more drawn to prices that contain fewer syllables. This may seem a little, well…out there. However, the researchers proved that when presented with three different visual options of the same price (e.g. $1,499.00, $1,499, and $1499), the prices that had more syllables when said out loud seemed to be far higher. So, seeing $1499 is more appealing than $1,499 because saying “fourteen ninety-nine” has fewer syllables than “one thousand four hundred and ninety-nine.” This may seem silly, but making this change costs you nothing, it’s just a matter of changing the way your pricing looks.

Give Your Customers Variety

In a recent study from Yale, researchers found that customers are more likely to buy a product when it is priced differently (even slightly) than a similar product, than if the two products are priced the same. The study used packs of gum to demonstrate this. When two similar packs of gum were priced identically at 63 cents, customers who were given a choice to purchase one pack of gum or nothing, bought a pack 46% of the time. However, when the prices of the two similar packs of gum were changed to 62 cents and 64 cents, sales shot up to 77%. The similarity in pricing seems to demotivate consumers from buying. You don’t have to go change all of your prices immediately to follow this research, but give it a try on a couple of items and see how it works.

These strategies, while backed by research and experimentation, are not the be-all and end-all to successful pricing, but they are a good starting point for some experimentation of your own. The next time that you are listing new inventory try implementing a couple of these strategies and see if your sales increase. Give your pricing purpose, not just a passing thought, and see what works for your business.

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About the Author


Jami is a blogger for ecomdash. She is an advocate for mental health awareness and addiction recovery, drinks her weight in caffeine every day, and has a deep affection for fine-point pens.

Jami DeLoeThe Psychology of Strategic Pricing

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