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We all know that pricing is the forgotten P of marketing, but it cannot be neglected when prices are presented to customers. This post, and the accompanying video, explores ten ways you can better present your pricing.

10. £20 off what…?

How many times has your partner come home with a shopping bag from an up-market retailer, and when you ask “How much was that?”, he/she replies ”Don’t worry, it was 50% off”.

There is one very simple problem with this answer, which is commonly seen in advertising: it doesn’t tell you what the baseline is. What was 100% of the price, or what are you getting $50 off?

This situation is commonly referred to as the Weber-Ferschner Law: customers cannot evaluate the attractiveness of an offer unless they know what the offer is based on.

9. Do you really want half price?

Everybody loves a bargain, but why give away something without getting something in return? If you’ve got a customer who wants to pay half price, ask her which half of your product she doesn’t want.

Give discounts where discounts are due, but only where you get something in return, such as customer loyalty, larger volumes, new or repeat customers, or buyers of distressed or out-of-date inventory.

8. When is your next sale?

There are some retailers who have sales so frequently that you can set your watch by them… and I’m not just talking about the Boxing Day sales.

A couple of years ago, Business Review Weekly published a calendar for the year which showed that general retailers would most likely be discounting inventory for all but three months of the year: journalists shouldn’t really be the ones to determine when retailers will or will not have their sales.

Customers are easily conditioned to when sales will occur, and they will hold off making purchases accordingly. Are you conditioning customers to when your next sales is?

7. Don’t mention price

Several years ago, Virgin Atlantic ran some brilliant ads targeting British Airways customers. The ads talked about what BA doesn’t have (free limo transfers to and from the airport, drive-through check in, clubhouse lounge with spa treatment, etc.), concluding with the remark that “At least BA does manage to match us on one thing… price.

This is great communication: it talks about the product Virgin has, and the competitor doesn’t, and concludes they are competitive on price… without even mentioning what that price is.

6. If you can’t show no prices, just show a few

If you can’t get away with showing no prices, then consider showing just a few prices. Why? Because customers do not know every single one of your prices. They will know a few prices: what some companies call KVIs, or ‘known value items’.

The upmarket food retailer Whole Foods Market advertises competitive prices of frequently purchased products only, without diluting the price paid (or the price perception) for other items once the customer is in the store.

5. You want me to buy cheap stuff?

Any company selling a product or service needs to understand their customers, and align their pricing strategy accordingly. One thing cosmetic companies have learned is that when it comes to putting stuff on their face, women don’t want cheap cosmetics.

That’s why you never see companies like L’Oreal or Clinique having price-based sales or using discounts. Rather, they offer bonuses and value adds. Are you cheapening your brand and your prices just because you don’t understand your customers very well?

4. Cultural sensitivities

In some parts of the world, certain numbers and colours are culturally significant and hold greater appeal to customers.

The number eight is a lucky number for the Chinese and many Asian cultures, and red is a lucky colour. Do your prices reflect cultural sensitivities?

3. If you have to ask the price…

There’s an old saying: ‘If you have to ask what the price is, you probably can’t afford it‘. Luxury brands know this and rarely advertise their price, so when you see a luxury brand mentioning price, it often sends customers a confusing message. Unless of course, they are trying to reposition themselves.

2. Further alignment of pricing and the brand

John Lewis, the UK department store, has a ‘never knowingly undersold’ policy, first coined by one of the Lewis’s in the 1930s. It enables them to remain competitive with the like of Poundland, as well as Harrods and Harvey Nichols, without diluting its brand and upmarket positioning.

1. Do you give… or do you take?

The rational economic man or woman knows that two litres of milk for $4.50 plus $0.50 when paid for by credit card, is exactly the same as $5.00 with a $0.50 discount when paid for in cash.

However, the irrational economic person knows that the second offer is perceived to be better, because they are getting a discount, rather than paying a surcharge. This is why cinemas offer cheap tickets on Tuesdays when demand is low, rather than charging higher prices on Friday and Saturday nights, when demand is higher. This practice is not universal across all industries though. Airlines charge fuel surcharges for a different reason.

 

The benefits of better presenting your pricing are greater sales, greater revenue and profit and greater customer satisfactions. But it is a double-edge sword: get it wrong and expect the opposite.

 

Jon Manning
BY Jon Manning ON 30 July 2012
Jon Manning is principal consultant at Sans Prix, and founder and managing director of online pricing advisory service, PricingProphets.com.