For many years, researchers have investigated customers’ response to product pricing. Some of the results point to several interesting psychological effects price may have on customers’ buying behavior and on their perception of individual products. We stress that certain pricing tactics “may” have a psychological effects since the results of some studies have suggested otherwise. But enough studies have shown an effect that this topic is worthy of discussion.
Methods of psychological pricing include:
One effect, dubbed “odd-even” pricing, relates to how customers may perceive a significant difference in product price when pricing is slightly below a whole number value. For example, a product priced at (US) $299.95 may be perceived as offering more value than a product priced at $300.00. This effect can also be used to influence potential customers as those who have bought may mention the price to others as being lower than it actually is. This may be due to the buyer mistakenly recalling the price being “well below” the even number or the buyer wants to impress others with their success in obtaining a good value. For instance, in our example a buyer who pays $299.95 may tell a friend they paid “a little more than $200” for the product when, in fact, it was much closer to $300.
Another psychological effect, called prestige pricing, points to a strong correlation between perceived product quality and price. The higher the price, the more likely customers are to perceive it as higher quality compared to a lower priced product. (Although, there is a point at which customers will begin to question the value of the product if the price is too high.) In fact, the less a customer knows about a product the more likely she/he is to judge the product as being higher quality based on only knowing the price (see Trigger of Early Perception). Prestige pricing can also work with odd-even pricing as marketers, looking to present an image of high quality, may choose to price products at even levels (e.g., $10 rather than $9.99).
As we discussed in the Consumer Buying Behavior Tutorial, the process involved in making purchase decisions can be quite complex. But for most customers, the purchase decision will involve a comparison of one product to another with price being a critical evaluative criterion. Because of this, marketers, who believe they have a price advantage, will create an arrangement where customers can easily compare one product to another. As an example, a retail grocery store may price its store brand coffee slightly below a leading premium brand and then place the store brand right beside the premium brand. With effective packaging and labeling, shoppers may feel the store brand is of similar quality but sells for less. In this way, the store hopes customers use the premium brand as a reference point, which will then present the store’s brand as being more attractive in terms of price.