Published prices: peace of mind

I was reading an article the other day about the reasons why we buy online. For cheaper products, it’s obviously just to search for a good price and delivery. But why do people buy really expensive products online? In many cases, if they’re forking out a lot of money, they really ought to test out the product, or at least see it in person. They’re willing to forego this, however. And why? The author reckoned it was because the internet has given us an opportunity which many people (especially in countries like the UK) have embraced: to be able to buy products without dealing with a salesperson.

When a purchase involves a salesperson, we British (and we’re not alone in the world) instinctively worry that we might be paying over the odds. In some other cultures, the buyer prefers to deal with a salesperson, as it gives them a chance to haggle down the price. Not here though. If we can visit a website, and know that we’re seeing the same price as everyone else, that’s all we want. Peace of mind. Would we rather see the product in person? Perhaps. But that’s something we’re prepared to give up, to avoid the perceived risk which comes from dealing with a salesperson.

We’re not selling books or groceries

Now, I’m not going to suggest that you start selling £100,000 Blue Widget Processing Machines through a webstore. And I completely understand when you point out that nearly all of your sales require a discussion to specify the right product. We’re not selling books or groceries. However, I do believe that many, many companies would benefit from throwing away the tradition of keeping their prices a secret. They could publish prices, even if it wasn’t possible for customers to buy the products without talking to them directly.

Put yourself in the shoes of a prospect for once (because not many of us do). If we can see Blue Widgets available on five different websites, and only one of the suppliers publishes prices, what do we do do? Sure, some of us will call the other four companies to see if we can buy their equivalent product more cheaply. And those other four companies will know what the first one is charging, which seems to be a sales director’s nightmare, although that’s just paranoia.

But… how many of us will just say: “Great, that’s a price I’m prepared to pay, and I know I’m not being ripped off, so I’ll buy it from that site which shows the prices”. How many of us want that comfort? How many of us would do anything not to haggle? A large, and increasing, number, I’d bet.

Discussion

  1. Jason palmer

    I buy from amazon lots, trusted, reviews, quality delivery monitoring.

    Links to “buy from amazon” the way ?

  2. David Reeve

    Car companies publish prices all of this time, however it clearly does not give peace of mind as everybody knows that these are not fixed prices. Maybe if they were ….did KIA do this to get into the market?

  3. Peter Swanson

    I think you’re confusing a few things, Chris.
    1) Don’t mix up price with product complexity. People are prepared to buy simple or commoditised products online – usually these are the less expensive ones, but not always.
    2) Don’t mix up price with value. Most of the businesses you entertain will differentiate their products/services with a value proposition that will include support, delivery, training, quality, approvals, options, etc. The buying decision is rarely finding the “equivalent product” at a cheaper price. If it was, the website with the cheapest price would have *all* the business. And whilst you could argue that the website should be able to communicate the value proposition alongside the price, this is actually quite hard to do well.
    3) Don’t mix up haggling with negotiation. Whilst I agree that this culture is not prone to haggling, the industrial community is quite prepared to discuss all aspects of the value proposition, especially if they have to establish a business case to justify a purchase.

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