E-commerce is a lot like magic. According to my in-depth research into the art of illusion (hey, I watched the movie “The Prestige”), there are three basic elements to the classic magic trick:
- The Pledge (set-up)
- The Turn (the trick itself)
- The Prestige (the reveal)
Much like a really good magic trick, you must also have your audience join you on a convincing journey, and deliver real value to them in the end without them feeling, well, tricked. For David Copperfield, that value is entertainment without feeling lied to by the illusion itself. For the classic e-commerce purchase funnel, that value is a quality product without being shocked by an unfair price at the end of the journey.
To that end, you might say e-commerce offer presentation has three stages (which may, in fact, overlap):
- The Interrupt (gains attention)
- The Value (establishes appeal)
- The Price (the reveal)
But when do you reveal price in the cart process? That was a question we received in our recent Web clinic, Shopping Carts Optimized: How a few tweaks led to 12% more revenue across an entire ecommerce website. I discussed this topic with our Director of Sciences, Bob Kemper, and here’s what he had to say…
“Rather than a universal constant (e.g., ‘Step 7’) or even a single-factor heuristic (e.g., “as soon as (x) happens”, or “not until you’ve done (y)”), optimizing the integration of pricing in the conversion process involves somewhat of a cross-section of the factors of our traditional ‘standard model’ that include thought-sequence principles and product/process-specific logistical constraints.”
In other words, there is not one right answer we can give you. You have to test to find the optimal price reveal for your cart, based on, according to Bob, the following two factors:
Reveal pricing when price becomes a/the primary decision factor. That is, for highly commoditized (highly price-elastic) products, it will be early on. For example, if someone is looking to purchase a book about Harry Houdini that they can buy just about anywhere, price is likely a major factor (likely even a key part of the “offer” as referenced above), and you probably want to lead with that price.
For exclusive, luxury or mission-critical (highly inelastic) products, reveal price later on. For example, if you’re selling a magic cape actually worn by Harry Houdini, something of which there are only a few in the world, you’d likely want to play up the offer and the product well before you get to price.
But, what if you literally sell a commodity? A product where the price is constantly shifting based on market conditions? Admittedly, this is pretty rare, but there are marketers who serve this niche. This may be stocks or bonds, precious metals, electricity, oil futures, even wholesale food sellers perhaps?
“In the case of one of my Research Partners, where prices fluctuate based on the market, it is INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT to show price in each step so they know that their price was still locked in for the promised 10 minutes by the ecommerce partner,” said Research Manager Jon Powell.
Do you have a simple “one-size-fits-all” pricing model, or is it a highly customizable buying process?
Some cart processes are just a yes/no decision. Going back to that Harry Houdini book above, the customer likely will only have to enter a payment method and shipping info and click the “buy” button.
However, other buying processes involve extensive customization. For example, if a customer is purchasing a car through AutoNation, he will likely have to configure the color, engine, tires, air conditioning, etc. Or ordering a computer from Dell, she must configure the CPU, memory, hard drive size, software, warranty, etc.
In this case, Bob advises you test different ways to reveal “a la carte” pricing at each step of product configuration. Later in the process, there will be opportunities to offer package discounts, premium step-upgrades, accessory incentives, etc. This multiple-stage price revelation method holds one element until very late in the conversion process, right before order confirmation.
“So, this is a kind of a ‘slow burn’ price revelation method, which can serve both to offer customer-specific discounts or incentives, and to maximize average order value,” Bob said.
Photo attribution: hsingy