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Nail your pricing strategy and improve sales

online-sellerNail your pricing strategy and improve sales
Often overlooked when it comes to ecommerce, your pricing strategy can be a powerful tool to increase sales and foster customer loyalty.

In this article we look at the main approaches to price-setting, before moving on to more advanced techniques that you can use to improve your pricing strategy.


Setting prices

Cost-based pricing

One of the simplest ways to set prices is to do so by cost. First, you add up all the known costs for a product – materials, labour, shipping, etc. – and you then decide on the profit margin you’re happy with.

This is great for beginners in ecommerce as it’s relatively quick and easy to do.


Competition-based pricing

Another good option for beginners, though slightly more work-intensive, is competition-based pricing.

With this approach you research your competitors’ pricing habits, looking at a fairly broad range. You then take the average price and use that as a basis. This way, you can effectively position your products in the completive landscape.

Try not to undercut the average price (unless your pricing strategy is consciously based on being low cost) as this could potentially damage your brand and prompt a race to the bottom with your competitors.


Value-based pricing

A combination of cost- and competition-based pricing, this method is a little more complex than both but can yield greater returns for more experienced online sellers.

First work out the cost-based price and the average competition price for a particular product. Then factor in the value of the product – the quality, the benefits and the unique selling point (USP), as well as the value as perceived by customers – and how it compares to other products on the market.

For instance, say you work out the cost- and competition-based price of a product but you find that your product outperforms others in a similar price bracket, you can then mark it up based on its value.


Experiment

With all of these pricing approaches (especially the last one) it’s best to experiment and see which prices bring the best returns.

When testing prices, make sure you have a plan. Set specific goals and timeframes and make sure you monitor the effects daily.

It's best to do in increments. Make minor adjustments to prices and stick to a small sample of products. This makes analysing the impact more manageable and limits the risk if the changes you make negatively affect sales.


Strategies

Once you’ve got your main pricing strategy sorted, you can begin looking at slightly more advanced techniques. Here are four tactics you can try.


1. Differentiate your prices

You might be tempted to price similar products at the same price, assuming that customers will choose the product they like most rather than the cheapest. But a study into price differentiation by Yale University yielded some surprising results.

When two products had identical price points (in this example it was packs of gum at 63 cents each) 46% of participants chose to make a purchase, while 54% opted to pocket the cash. When the packs of gum were priced differently – at 62 cents and 64 cents – 77% chose to buy a pack.

This suggests that having the same price point can make the purchasing decision more difficult. As a result, customers might decide not to buy rather than make a choice. The lesson? Try to differentiate your prices, perhaps using the value-based approach above, to tackle buyer indecision.


2. Anchoring and pricing levels

Leading on from price differentiation, one factor that may have helped increase sales in the previous example is the buyers’ perceptions of cost and value.

This brings us to anchoring, a cognitive bias that means our opinions and decisions are influenced by reference points, or ‘anchors’. To put it simply, advertise a £25 t-shirt next to a £60 t-shirt and the former seems much more reasonable in comparison. It’s the same reason why it’s good to clearly include the original price when offering a discount.

Similarly, having different pricing levels – cheaper, middle-ground and premium options – can influence what people choose to spend their money on.

In one study, researchers experimented with different selections of beer at different price points. They found that when there were two beer options, 80% went for the more expensive of the two and 20% for the cheaper. When they introduced a third, even more expensive option, only 5% chose the cheapest option, 85% went with the middle-priced beer, and 10% splashed out on the premium product.

There are two key takeaways here. One is the perceived value due to anchoring. Though the prices didn’t change, sales of the most popular beer went up from 80% to 85%, as it didn’t seem so expensive when there was an even costlier option.

The second is that by having different pricing levels, you can cater to different buyers who may be willing to spend more or less than others. You can also then up the margin slightly on the most popular products, increasing revenue.


3. Context

This perception of price and value works in part due to the context. Buyers use the pricing context to gauge the value and cost of the products they’re viewing.

But price isn’t the only contextual influence on buyer behaviour. For example, if you were in a high-street clothing store, £20 for a top would seem reasonable. Now imagine perusing a charity shop and coming across the same top for £10. You’d probably think it was hugely overpriced, because in the context of the charity shop things should be much cheaper.

Similarly, the context of your online store – such as the web design, the copywriting, the descriptions and the imagery – all set the tone for your buyer. They create subconscious expectations and communicate value, so take time to polish your sales platform.


4. Reduce financial pain points

According to neuroeconomic research, prices cause the pain centre of the human brain to light up: we perceive parting with money as a painful experience. And when spending becomes too painful to justify the gain, we choose not to buy.

So, psychological techniques that ease these pain points can make consumers more inclined to buy. Here are some tactics you could employ:
  • Bundling
Bundling is when you group multiple items together and sell them at one discounted price point. The discounted price communicates better value to the customer, and the customer feels less resistance when buying one bundle than they would with making multiple purchases. Meanwhile, you increase your overall sales.
 
  • Clever copy
In a study from Carnegie Mellon University, researchers found that rates for a DVD subscription service increased by 20% when they changed the copy from ‘a $5 fee’ to ‘a small $5 fee’. While it may seem like an obvious trick, using words like ‘small’ or ‘just’ or ‘only’ can prime the brain to think about the price from a particular perspective.
 
  • Keep costs transparent
Customers hate it when they think they’re paying a particular price and then, suddenly, an extra fee is tacked on at the last minute. Maybe it’s a delivery charge, maybe it’s VAT, or maybe the discount that drew them to a product is no longer available. Whatever the reason, when a customer expects a certain price, anything above that price will feel excessive. So, keep your costs transparent – including delivery charges.
 

Review your strategy

As with any kind of strategy, you need to review and evaluate it to see what’s working and what’s not. Experiment with different techniques and monitor the results, tweaking things if needed.

Of course, you don’t want to be constantly changing your prices – that's a sure-fire way to irritate your customers – but reflecting on performance and taking well-thought-out action is the key to a successful long-term pricing strategy.
 

If you’re an established or new online seller and have international payments to manage we can help you maximise your returns and protect your profit. Get in touch with our team on [email protected] or call +44 (0) 20 7847 9400.
 
Currencies Direct

Currencies Direct

Currencies Direct is one of Europe's leading non-bank providers of currency exchange and international payment services. Since we were formed in 1996, we've maintained our focus on providing innovative foreign exchange and international currency transfer services to corporations of all sizes, online sellers and private individuals. We have also expanded our services to provide dynamic and pioneering "business to business" solutions to help companies, tier 2/3 banks and other non-bank financial institutions to process their international payments. Our headquarters are in the City of London (United Kingdom) and we have operations in continental Europe, Africa, Asia, and the United States. Currencies Direct is jointly owned by private equity firms Palamon Capital Partners and Corsair Capital.

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