How Supermarkets Fool You Into Buying More

Supermarkets and pricing

Supermarkets and pricing

I have to marvel at some of the psychological pricing “tricks” supermarkets use to “fool” us into buying more.

I was in the supermarket the other day, and I saw a 72 biscuit box of my favourite breakfast cereal, Weetabix, for £4.90. Now, since I don’t normally see boxes of that size (they normally come in smaller boxes of 24 biscuits), I assumed that was pretty decent value for money – and the average price in my local store for a smaller box was about £2, so I knew this was cheaper than my local store. (Locally, it would cost me £6 for the same number of biscuits).

But then I thought, “Wait… let me check”. So I looked at the price of the 24 biscuit boxes, and they were £1.50.

“Wait a minute,” I thought to myself, puzzled. “I could buy 3 of these smaller boxes [3 x £1.50 = £4.50]… that would be the same number of biscuits as the larger box [£4.90], yet it would be cheaper!”

I grinned smugly to myself as I picked up 3 of the smaller boxes, thinking I had fooled the supermarket and saved myself 40 pence. (Oh, how wrong I was.)

I pointed this out to my brother, and then he said something that totally blew me away.

“So why are you buying 3 boxes?” he asked, casually.

At that moment, I suddenly realized how even more devilishly clever the supermarket was being. I had perceived that I was saving 40 pence by buying 3 individual boxes… but really, I was being “fooled” into buying 3 boxes when I didn’t need to!

At £1.50 for a box of 24 biscuits, I could just as easily have bought 1 or 2 of them… I didn’t need to buy all 3… but because I compared the price of 3 smaller boxes (£4.50) to the higher price of the larger 72 biscuit box (£4.90), I was “fooled” into thinking I’d be making a 40 pence saving by buying 3 smaller boxes!

“Fooled” is probably the wrong word, but the pricing was cleverly devised to get a poor sucker like myself to buy more than I might have done if the higher priced 72 biscuit box wasn’t there!

And if I hadn’t bothered calculating the values in my head, I may have ended up paying 40 pence more for the bigger box!

This highlights a principle I discussed in my report Pricing For Big Profits, that of the contrast principle – which shows that we often look at value in relative, rather than absolute terms.

It was this very principle that nearly led me to buy 3 boxes of Weetabix, when I didn’t really need to at all! I say “nearly”, because after I realized this, I put one of the boxes back… I didn’t need all 3!

I’d love to hear any stories like this that you might have. Please also feel free to share this post with your friends on Twitter.

Hiding Prices #4 – The Secret Technique Of Price Conditioning

All this week we’ve been discussing the idea of “hiding” your prices (i.e. not making your prices immediately obvious), and there’s one other major reason some marketers and copywriters hide their prices, and it involves the little-known but immensely powerful concept of price conditioning.

New visitors have faulty price expectations in mind.

When they first visit your website, many of your potential clients have a certain price expectation in mind, which are often based on certain erroneous assumptions.

For example, Peter might have heard or read of other people who had several 500 word articles written at $5 each – so when he comes to your site, his price expectation is $5 an article. Sally’s friend may have had a sales letter written for $500, so Sally expects to be able to get the same price. When she comes to your site, her expectation is that a sales letter costs $500.

On the other hand, let’s say your price is $20 for a 500 word article, or $2,000 for a sales letter. Clearly there is a BIG price difference between Peter’s or Sally’s expectation of price, and your actual price.

Big problem!…

… especially if they discover your price before you’ve established value and built desire. If Peter’s expectation is $5 an article, and you’re at $20 an article, you risk him dismissing your writing service without even reading your sales pitch!

What price conditioning does is it conditions the potential customer to raise their expectations of price… to the point where, when you reveal your price, it’s not as much as they expected – or at the very least, it’s less of a shock.

It’s about changing their perception of your price.

Now, because this is a little understood technique for most writers, and even many copywriters, I devoted an entire chapter to the subject in Write To More Money, but let me touch on just one of the many ways you can condition your clients to expect a higher price.

There are publications in the writing industry that contain standard rates for certain types of writing. So let’s say, according to a particular publication, the standard rate for an article is $40. You can use this piece of information as a price conditioning tool, by referring the client to it, or referencing it in your sales copy.

This can serve to raise their expectation of the price of your articles. (For this to be effective, you’d need to combine this with establishing value and building desire.)

Here’s how it works…

Let’s say Peter comes to your writing website, looking to have some articles written, with an expectation in mind of $5 an article. Your prices are $20 an article, but you “hide” your prices in such a way that he can’t easily find it until he has read at least some of your copy. (We’ll talk about how you can do this in Part #5 of this series).

Your copy skillfully establishes value and builds desire, so he gradually comes to realize all the things that truly high quality articles can deliver for him, such as credibility, authority, subscribers and sales…

… and your copy price conditions him, so he comes to realize his $5 expectation was far too low… but now he’s a little bit scared because you seem be implying that these good quality articles are going to cost him $40, $50 or even $60 an article.

He really wants the kind of quality and results you seem to be offering (you’ve built strong desire) BUT he’s scared of what your prices are going to be. Finally, he gets to discover your pricing… and is relieved that it’s only $20 an article!

He places his order.

Can you see the difference? Without building desire, establishing value, and price conditioning, your $20 articles seem expensive to him, because you’ve done nothing to change his expectation of $5 an article.

And if he can easily find your prices without having to read your copy, he may well pass on reading it, simply because $20 is “expensive” in his mind.

Price conditioning is about changing the potential client’s perspective on your prices, so that they no longer see your prices as “expensive” but as “reasonable” or even “less than they expected”.

But you might not get to do any of that if he’s already decided you’re “too expensive”, and left before he even reads the copy… a major problem if your prices are easy to find.

Price conditioning is a immensely powerful technique, but I can’t do it justice in a blog post, which is why I’d urge you to grab yourself a copy of Write To More Money if you can. I can promise you that knowing and using this technique (in combination with establishing value and building desire) will give you a major advantage over writers and copywriters who don’t know and use it (and I’ve really only touched on it in this post).

In Part #5 of this series, I’m going to give you some ideas on how to ethically “hide” your prices, or at least delay the potential customer from finding out your prices, until you’ve had the chance to establish value, build desire and price condition. (There are many more creative options, besides simply putting your prices on your order form, or leaving them off altogether.)

Hiding Prices #3 – Price Value Versus Personal Value

(This is a continuing discussion of why marketers and copywriters “hide” their prices at times. You can read Hiding Prices #1 and Hiding Prices #2).

Imagine I were to offer you a PDF report for $1,000. Would you buy it?

You’d probably say No, simply because you don’t have enough information on the product, or any real desire for it. So at this point, the price is irrelevant.

Or you might think that $1,000 is way overpriced for a PDF report.

What if I told you this report was worth $10,000 to you… but you could have it for $1,000? Would you buy it now?

You’d still probably say No – because, other than taking my word for it, you have no way of knowing what the report is truly worth to you. (I’ve told you it’s “worth” $10,000… but right now that’s probably an empty claim to you.)

Now, let’s add one additional piece of information. Suppose this PDF report contained next week’s winning lottery numbers, for a $16.7 million lottery prize.

For $1,000… would you buy it now?

Aha… that changes things. Suddenly the contents of the report become very valuable to you indeed. You KNOW the value to you of next week’s lottery numbers… and the $1,000 price seems incredibly cheap.

Of course, this would raise other questions in your mind: How do I know the numbers in advance? Why would I sell these numbers, instead of using them myself? How many others are getting these numbers? Is this a scam? How can I guarantee the winning numbers?… and so on.

But my point here is this… now you know precisely what you’re going to get out of the report, you’d see the $1,000 price in a totally different perspective. If what I’m claiming to offer is true, the value to you is very clear, and so the price is probably seen as exceptional value, and you’d be crazy NOT to beg, steal or borrow to get the money.

Yet without knowing the true value of the report to you, it just seems like another overpriced report.

You see, there are two different ways of valuing a product, which are easily confused:

Price value. This is the value we attach to a product when we set its price. Ultimately, the price value of a $1,000 report is… well, $1,000!

Personal value. This is the value we personally get from the product. In the case of my example, the personal value of knowing those winning lottery numbers is easy to calculate – it’s up to $16.7 million!

Of course, personal value is often subjective. For example, if you had a technique that could double your customer’s sales within a week, only the customer can know what this technique would be worth to them. (As a copywriter you could always ask them the rhetorical question: “How much is knowing X worth to you?”)

And it’s not always about money. For a person suffering with a particular ailment, a report which tells them how to cure that ailment might be of immense personal value, or even priceless.

This is a great basis for a clearer definition of what we mean when we talk about value for money. We think something is good value for money when we are clearly getting more personal value from a product than the price value.

But knowing the price alone does not tell you whether it’s good value for money or not, just as in the case of my imaginary $1,000 report. This is why some copywriters and marketers hide their prices. They first want to build desire, and also demonstrate the potential personal value to the visitor, so the visitor can make a decision based on “value for money”, rather than on simply whether they can “afford it”.

After all, my $1,000 report might sound expensive and overpriced… until you realize what’s in it.

There is yet one other important reason why prices are “hidden” at times, and it’s to do with a negotiating secret you can also use with your clients, so make sure you’re subscribed to this blog so you won’t miss Hiding Prices #4, tomorrow.

Hiding Prices #2 – What Makes Something Affordable To Us?

In this series we’re asking why some marketers hide their prices, and whether you should do the same. In Hiding Prices #1, I explained that most people skim a sales letter to find a price, because they want to know the answer to the question, “Can I afford this?”

However, affordability is a “fuzzy” issue. It depends partly on perception and desire.

From a simplistic point of view, affordability is about whether we have enough cash or credit to buy something. In this sense, for the average person in the USA, $7 is probably “affordable”. It’s the cost of a hamburger.

But for these same people, $7,000 is not an impulse buy. It’s serious money. Most people don’t have $7,000 tucked away in their bank. In real, cash terms, they “can’t afford” it.

However, this is where it gets “fuzzy”… if we really want something, we’ll often find ways of paying for it. After all, few of us can afford to buy a house. But when we want somewhere to live, we’ll go to the bank manager, who arranges for us to pay for the house in monthly chunks spread out over 25 or 30 years. We find a way to make it affordable.

If we really want that vacation, or that car, or the latest iPhone, not having the money doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t buy it. We might put it on our credit card, ask the bank manager for a loan, or ask friends and family to lend us the money.

Or we do it the traditional and perhaps more sensible way… we save up for it. Or maybe we put in more overtime at work, or aim for the bigger bonus, or more commission.

In other words, when we really want something, we’ll beg, steal, borrow (and even, radical idea… save up or earn more) to find the money. We find ways to make it affordable for ourselves.

So then, whether we feel we can “afford” something is closely related to our desire for it. But here’s the problem when a person skims the copy of our sales letter to find the price:

Unless they are ready to buy, strong desire hasn’t been built yet.

Every copywriter knows that part of the role of the sales copy is to build strong desire for the product. But when the potential customer knows the price before they have strong desire, they can easily rationalize that they can’t afford it, or they don’t need it.

Read that last sentence again. It’s very important. Without a desire for something, we can easily rationalize we can’t afford it, or don’t need it.

In other words, knowing the price too early can create a BARRIER for building strong desire.

For example, let’s say you sell a seminar for $1,000. If that’s all they know, most people naturally focus on the $1,000 part, and whether they happen to have that amount in their bank account (and most people don’t), or whether they feel they can add another digit to their credit card debt.

Sure, you can still build the desire even if they know the price in advance, but knowing the price will often cloud their judgment as to the value of the seminar. It doesn’t matter if you tell them the seminar is worth $10,000 to them. The value of it has already been set in their mind… at $1,000.

This brings me to another important reason some copywriters and marketers “hide” the price: “price value” versus what I call “personal value”, something that is often easily confused. Make sure you read Part #3 of this series tomorrow.

(By the way, my aim with this series is not to convince you to hide your prices. In fact, there are times when it works to your advantage to reveal the price early on, which I’ll explain later in this series. My goal is to help you fully understand why it’s done, so you can make a better decision as to whether to do it or not.)

Hiding Prices #1 – Should You Hide The Price Of Your Product?

Hiding prices

Hiding prices

When selling products online, a growing trend I see in some niches is to hide the price of the product. In other words, the visitor has to click the order button to find the price. In some cases, there is no price at all, and you have to contact someone to find out the cost.

On marketing forums I see many strong opinions on this issue, such as these real comments:

“I hate it when the price is hidden or I have to ‘hunt’ for it buried somewhere on the sales page…”

“Most of the time if I can’t find the price I assume that it must cost too much and I’m out of there!”

“I don’t like it when the price is hidden… that feels like a manipulation…”

Most people (including many marketers) don’t seem to fully understand why it’s done, so this week I’m going to explore WHY prices are often “hidden”.

This is important to know regardless of how you feel about the issue. You need to understand the thinking behind it, before you decide to do it, or not do it.

Today I want to answer the question, “Why?” Why hide the price from a potential customer? If they’re looking for a price, isn’t that a good indication they’re interested in buying?

Not necessarily. The fact is, most visitors to a site, especially when they are already aware something is being sold, are first of all skimmers.

Let’s say Sally comes to your website. She is there for a REASON. Maybe she’s just clicked a banner ad that promotes your product. Or maybe someone’s recommended your product to her.

Either way, she has an EXPECTATION in mind. That expectation has been formed by whatever preceded the click.

If her friend recommended your product, it’s the expectation that your product is relevant for her. If your banner ad made a promise, her expectation is to find out more about this promise.

Once she’s satisfied herself about her expectation, i.e. that the product is relevant, and/or it is going to deliver on the promise, the next thing that runs through her mind is,

“Can I afford this?”

And this is where she starts skimming to find the price.

This is also where the problem begins…

… because “affordability” is not simply a question of how much you have in your wallet or purse right now.

Tomorrow, in Part #2 of this series we’ll look at how people determine whether something is “affordable” to them or not, and the importance of “desire” to this process. You won’t want to miss this vital discussion, so please subscribe to this blog and not miss out.

Preselling – How To Presell And Get Visitors To Accept Your Sales Message

I was just reading an article over at AWAI Online entitled, “7 Words That Instantly Launched My Six-Figure Copywriting Career…” Go and read it, and then come back here, because I want to talk to you about how that article used the concept of preselling in a smart way.

The story was a clever example of preselling. Basically, the article talked about how the author (Jay White) met famous marketer Alex Mandossian at a copywriting seminar, and how that encounter led to him writing copy for Alex, and to getting other work from “several million-dollar clients worldwide”.

However, the story functions as a presell for his advice near the end of the article, which is to attend AWAI’s copywriting bootcamp.

The story is “preselling” because it wasn’t directly “selling” the seminar. It was designed put the reader in the right frame of mind to accept the sales message. By the time the reader finished the story, they might be thinking, “Wow, could it really be that easy? So it’s just a question of being in the right place at the right time?”

Over on my blog at PaulHancox.com I wrote an article about preselling, and I used this analogy:

If sex is the sale, then I was going to say that preselling is the foreplay. But it’s not even that. Preselling is the teasing, flirting and playful touching that gets ‘em in the mood in the first place!

That’s what Jay White’s story did. It got readers in the mood. They heard his story of meeting Alex Mandossian at a copywriting seminar, and it got them thinking, “Wow, I wouldn’t mind some of that!” And only after telling his story, did he suggest that’s why they should go to AWAI’s latest copywriting bootcamp.

Think about it. He could have started his article by saying something like, “Here’s why I think you should attend the latest bootcamp.” Instead, he presold them on the idea with his story. He engaged them in the “teasing, flirting and playful touching” that led naturally to the outcome.

We’ll talk more about the power of preselling on this blog here at copySnips.com, so please… whatever you do, don’t miss out – grab yourself a free subscription to this blog and keep all these things fresh in your mind. If you’re feeling generous to your Twitter followers, you may even want to retweet this blog post and share it with them.