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.