Show them the money

There is a vicious rumour circulating around the Internet at the moment suggesting that if you want to sell more on your website you should remove the currency symbol from your prices. The argument goes that if you show someone a price for a product, say £27, you are reminding them that they are likely to part with a wad of cash. The rumour then suggests that if you remove the currency symbol, just stating your price as 27, you will not remind people it is actual money they are spending and therefore they will not think about it and so will spend more on your site.

Remind people they are spending moneySounds brilliant – apart from the fact that it is garbage based on assumption, rather than any kind of evidence.

For a start, not using a currency symbol leads to confusion – does 27 mean £27 or $27 or €27…? When people are not sure about something they delay purchasing decisions. Removing the currency symbol is a hazard for an e-commerce site, not an advantage.

Besides there is now evidence that reminding people that they are spending money with you makes them focus on things which increases the likelihood or them parting with their cash. Far from hiding the currency symbol from your website visitors it should be writ large and you should remind people of the money they may be spending with you.

The research, conducted at the University of Salzburg found that when people are reminded of money they tend to focus their decision making on more abstract features of a product rather than specific things. So, when faced with reminders of money when buying yoghurt people tended to focus their thoughts on tastiness or healthiness rather than the packaging itself. In other words, when people are reminded of the money they are spending they put less emphasis on the concrete features of what they are buying and focus instead on the more abstract elements.

As a consumer this is a problem because it could mean we buy things which if we had spent more time on considering the specific features of the item we would have kept our cash in our pocket. But as a website owner trying to sell things, the reverse is true. You want people to spend money with you so by getting them to focus on abstract features you can get greater sales.

One good way of doing that, perversely, is by reminding them they are spending money. Instead of hiding your prices, show them off. And if you wonder if focusing on prices works, take a look at a typical Amazon product page. You will find your currency symbol and prices shown between 20 and 30 times – you cannot avoid the fact that you will be spending money…! And that works OK for Amazon it seems…!

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