- Product focused – know what they want and they want it fast;
- Browsers – have time to browse around and need to see what’s new;
- Researchers – need easy way to look up and compare product information;
- Bargain hunters – look for a great sale; and
- One-time shoppers – may also be one of the other four, and hate creating and registering an account with you.
What’s the one thing a prospective customer wants to know when visiting an e-commerce website?
When dealing with displaying pricing, businesses need to ask them selves; Is it better to not be judged, or to be ignored completely?
Yet it’s interesting to note that multiple usability studies by experts like the Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) show that many websites still haven’t done anything to respond to people’s frustrations on not seeing the prices of products and services.
What’s more, usability experts NN/g point out that business customers see pricing as the most important piece of information online, yet several B2B sites don’t seem to acknowledge this as they continue to obscure prices.
Adapting to New Shopping Habits
B2B webmasters and developers should adapt to the new ways consumers of the 21st century shop and research information about products and services. Gone are the days when consumers had to interact with sales agents; DIY is the way to go, with consumers now empowered with the information to make decisions on what to buy and not.
Many B2B site owners make the mistake of assuming customers will contact them to ask about pricing—they probably will, but it’ll be an inconvenience. In fact, studies by NN/g found that many participants in their research opted to go to competitor sites when websites failed to show prices. In the end users ended up viewing and purchasing from sites that did show pricing information.
Why Hide Prices?
For companies, the most common reason behind keeping pricing hidden from consumers is to obscure it from competitors. Other reasons include:
- Having varying prices for different customers
- Prices constantly fluctuate, making it difficult to show fixed prices
- Special services have unique prices
While the reasons above are legitimate excuses, it doesn’t change the fact that they’re still excuses. The simple fact is that failing to be open with pricing works against the needs of customers, creating a poor shopping experience. What’s more, one person’s impression on a brand (e.g. they’re hiding their prices) can ripple out to other consumers. This effect completely negates all of the reasons stated above.
And besides, all of the issues mentioned above are also tackled by brick and mortar establishments, which still openly display their prices.
Here’s an insightful look on why you shouldn’t be bother hiding your prices.
For Those That Really Can’t Show Exact Prices: Sample Prices
For B2B companies that have unique products and services, it’s true pricing structures can be complex, with rates varying between clients based on their specific situations. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t show pricing, as prospective customers still need something to go on during their initial research.
When providing exact prices becomes impractical, the next best option is to provide estimates in the form of a price range, typical pricing packages for usual situations, or the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). To avoid running into legal hiccups with displaying prices, it’s best to consult with legal counsel to find the most accurate ways of displaying this information.
Provide Prices for Typical Scenarios
For companies that structure their prices according to the unique services different clients need, the most prudent course of action is to provide pricing information for a handful of scenarios your company commonly encounters. You might hear of tools like cost calculators that allow customers to input what they want, and in the end, get the corresponding cost for the service package.
While useful, studies show these pricing calculators are often too complex, unwieldy, and prone to mistakes. Pricing calculators are not entirely useless; they can still appeal to some highly engaged customers eager to enter the required data to get the information they want.
In any case, it’s best to employ the rule of averages and offer sample prices for typical situations, which are sufficient to provide inquiring customers with a rough idea of what they want and how much it should cost.
Example: Automotive Parts Pricing
In the context of automotive parts, we believe that showing the price of parts and accessories is crucial for attracting prospective customers who are searching for an item they already know they want or need, but don’t know the price of. Often, these customers are conducting pricing comparisons between vendors, and transparent pricing provides the convenience of seeing the information they need immediately, and hence increases the chances of these customers making a purchase a decision.
Showing prices on your B2B site also boosts consumer trust in your brand. Consumers see vendors that openly display their pricing as being straightforward and honest, and transactions are more likely to occur when people get the information they want right away.
For the average consumer, the fewer the number of steps it takes to make a purchase (e.g. make a phone call to inquire price, make a reservation), the better the shopping experience will be, and the more successful your business will be at gaining and retaining their business.
What are conversion rates, and how do we measure them?
Conversion rate, in a nutshell, refers to the percentage of web users who move on to make a desired action, or a goal. The simplest example of conversion rate is the percentage of visitors to a website who go from browsing through the website, to buying something on it. The act of browsing to buying is where the ‘conversion’ happens.
Another example by usability experts the NN/g group shows this scenario:
100,000 users log on to an e-commerce site in April. 2000 of these 100,000 users made a purchase; therefore, the site’s conversion rate is 2 percent.
Of course, it’s not as simple as it looks, as there are plenty of questions to ask yourself when thinking of the conversion process. For instance, you may be wondering how to count baseline number of web users who visit your site. Should you only count unique visitors or should you mark down every time one user visits the site during the measurement period? Likewise, how do you count the ‘desired actions’ users make? Do you count a conversion event that’s unique to every person, or count every event regardless of how many times it occurs with a user?
Conversion Events Explained
While conversion rates are strongly correlated to e-commerce sales, it’s a concept that should matter to people concerned with other aspects of a website, even design. Conversion events are a good indicator of a site’s performance. These events can include anything from a purchase on a site, signing up as a registered user, signing up for a newsletter, downloading a mobile app, and repeatedly returning to the site, which means it might be better to count for unique users only.
Why Does this All Matter, Especially for UX?
Simple. Conversion rates are a key performance indicator (KPI) on the success of your user experience. But what about conversion counts, you might ask?
Think of it this way. If you opened a store and marketed it on all platforms (print, radio, TV, web, social media), there’s a good chance people will flock to your establishment. This is where conversion counts come in, thanks to your marketing efforts. What happens in the store, whether a visitor browses through products, signs up for coupons, and makes a purchase, can be attributed to your store’s design—in the context of websites, the web design, and ultimately, the user experience.
For design, conversion counts are unreliable because they count the number of people who visit the website; whereas conversion rates measure the impact of web design since they account for what people do once they’re on the site.
While it’s often better to track the ratio of users who proceed to make conversions, this is not always the case.
The ratios can be misleading, especially if there’s a sudden surge in variable traffic that’s of varying quality. For instance, if your e-commerce site were to upload content about a rumor of the next iPhone when the rumor mill is at its busiest, it’s likely to lead to a surge in visits from Apple fans but no actual purchases made. Just people getting hold of a link to that piece of information, probably leading to a share, and ultimately leaving.
A sudden spike in visits such as the above example but no conversion events will cause your conversion rates to plummet, but that shouldn’t be a cause for worry since you can connect the dots to whatever chances you made. In the example scenario, it’s the new content, not a design change.
This means that you should always pay attention to your traffic sources and find out whether new traffic is in line or different from your usual users.
Conversion Against Usability Metrics
A solid conversion rate usually hovers between 1–10%. However, when testing for usability, a good score will be at 80 percent and above. The reason for this disparity is that in a test situation like the ones NN/g regularly conducts, users are urged to perform a task, so the score is based on whether it’s possible for them to do so. It negates important factors like price, and looks purely on the success of pulling off the assigned ask. If a site scores 80 percent, it simply means 20 percent were unable to use the site, not that the 80 percent are good as paying customers.
Relating Conversion Rate to User Experience
We at Enform agree with NN/g’s recommendation of monitoring conversion rates in lieu of design changes to see whether a UX investment is worth it or not. While it’s true that other factors besides UX can impact conversion, design arguably has the biggest effect.