Why are negatives so much sexier than positives?
As a copywriter, I find it’s usually more illuminating to discover why people don’t do things, as opposed to why they actually do them.
And when I catch myself feeling friction and hesitating in the buying process myself, it makes me even more curious.
The pitfalls of sneaky price add-ons
Quite recently, I was online, ready to buy a piece of home fitness equipment.
I was very aware of the product and my buying intent was high. I clicked the "Add To Cart" button, and on the next page, $50 in unadvertised fees were added to my cart: $35 in tax, $15 shipping.
I felt so frustrated - cheated, even - that I closed the window. Even though I really wanted the product. And later that evening, I took the time to find a competitor who advertised their fees fairly: taxes included in the sticker price in clear-to-read, click-trigger copy right next to the button. Free shipping.
I bought from them, instead.
So often, money gets left on the table in SaaS, too, because companies try to play a game of ‘Battleships’ on the Pricing page.
Even though my example above was from e-commerce, consider it a cautionary, user tester’s tale. And start altering your approach to pricing accordingly.
Name your price...the importance of clarity
Your price copy needs to be clear to your users. It really is as simple as that.
If your pricing isn’t clear, you’ll lose their trust. And as much as I’m talking about ethics here, it’s not just about ethics.
I’m talking about genuine friction points that disappoint your users and create barriers in their buyer’s journey.
Disingenuous pricing is just one of the things to avoid.
The other is complicated pricing.
Overwhelming your prospects with too much information that doesn’t give them clear and obvious reasons to buy.
In a user testing study conducted by Profitwell, users were asked to grade their understanding of a company’s offer on a scale of 1 to 5 - with 1 being easy to understand, and 5 being most difficult.
One of the companies that performed most poorly in this experiment was Mixpanel, which used abstract ‘data points’ to assess its product pricing:
This copy performed poorly in the test because the users simply didn’t understand the ‘data points’. They couldn’t perceive the value of the data points against the prices.
The offer’s been overcomplicated here, and it’s an easy fix.
The old monthly/annual switcheroo
So, how about the copy on this pricing page from Last Pass?
Looks clear. But notice the asterisks next to the figures?
If you look at the bottom of the page, in smaller font and harder-to-read grey type, you’ll see that these low-cost monthly prices are in fact charged as larger, one-off annual payment.
So, people aren’t spreading their cost at an appealing £2.60 per month, then.
Ah, but what about the benefits of saving by buying an annual subscription, I hear you say!
Well, if you’re so confident that buying an annual subscription offers your users better value for money (and you should be) then shout about it! Signpost the savings. Don’t cower under the pricing table, in runty grey typeface.
Scoring annual subs through the back door is a common tactic, and it doesn’t go down well with consumers.
I found this out on my own LinkedIn account, when I polled my followers with this question:
You can see that 89% of respondents find this tactic to be deceptive.
The problem with big, foreboding doors
We can count on copywriting kings Basecamp to be transparent with us, can’t we?
Their pricing copy looks crystal-clear, on the surface:
Sounds great…$99/month flat. No confusion, there.
Or is there?
Is that $99/month rate the monthly value of an annual plan, that I’ll have to pay upfront? Or is it the cost of a monthly instalment?
When I click the $99/month link to find out, instead of being taken to a payment plan screen, I’m taken to this:
To see the pricing structure, I need to sign up for the free trial first.
It’s not as crystal-clear as I first thought.
And now I’m staring at a big, foreboding oak door, with a lion’s head door-knocker, and I’m not sure about what’s on the other side.
A fair maiden?
A big, green ogre guarding the fair maiden?
It’s easier to be a chicken and just walk away.
Every moment is precious
In a former life writing fiction, I tried submitting a novel manuscript to several literary agents (this was before self-publishing became a thing and agents were the gatekeepers - and quite rightly they didn’t accept the garbage I sent in).
All agents would insist upon a synopsis - ideally as succinct as a single page - summarizing the novel’s plot. They wanted everything, before they read the manuscript.
The explosive beginning, the twists in the middle, and even the shocking ending. All secrets revealed.
And all in a one-pager, just to see if reading the manuscript was worth their precious time.
Converting users on your Pricing page works the same way.
You can’t play fast and loose with your customers’ time.
You can’t say to them:
"Want to know the real price of what I’m offering? Hint: you won’t actually find it here. Instead, click HERE to unveil the truth you’re dying to know…"
That’s called hubris. And your users will bounce.
What pricing done right looks like
It’s logical that I’d finish this off with an example of transparent pricing done right.
Dropbox offer different pricing tiers depending on features, and the tab on the left allows prospects to select pricing options for both pay-monthly and pay-annually plans:
Are the likes of Basecamp, Last Pass and Mixpanel missing out on conversions by making their prices unclear or misleading?
Consumer demand for ‘ethical’ brands seems to suggest that they’d profit more by following Dropbox’s approach.
Your Pricing page is the most important page on your site
Why not just smooth out your funnel, open some of the doors, and just tell people the price of your product in a straight-up, honest way?
For the sake of conversion, focus on making your pricing as simple as possible.
It’s a monthly subscription. Not a consulting service. Just tell your users what the price is, in a way they can understand it.
It’s something worth testing, at the very least.
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