The sound of the price
You’ve probably heard that, taking out 1 cent, consumers tend to round it down, right? It is the so-called psychological price. Among other techniques, those $ 10.00 that turn into 9.99 to give the impression of $ 9.00.
But why does this happen? Or, better saying, how can we go deeper into the interpretive question of prices? Much of this has to do with how our brain processes this information, including the analogue price reading: from left to right in Western languages.
Nature values efficiency. Thus, the minimum information needed to understand an event is enough to close the brain interpretive cycle; this makes $ 109.99 actually to be “one hundred and nine and something,” or “one hundred and something.” According to the American writer William Poundstone, a 24% increase in sales can occur when this technique is adopted.
The sound of the price
Going further, researchers Robin and Keith Coulter — from the University of Connecticut and Clark University, respectivelly — published a study in 2010 that looks at consumer perceptions about pricing based on the sound this price has.
The narration of a price is composed of phonemes: it costs “thirty-seven” something.
What the “Small Sounds, Big Deals: Phonetic Symbolism Effects in Pricing” experiment proposed was precisely to compare the perception of value according to the sound of the numbers. Or rather, of the phonemes that make up the description of a consumer price.
The model indicates that the cognitive subsystem manipulates the numbers of three forms, neurologically connected:
01. visual (graphic of the number in the Hindu-Arabic numeral)
02. sound (sequencing the sounds they represent)
03. analog (magnitude of its representation)
Within the sound aspect, the argument is that there is a cerebral movement that interprets the phonemes connected to the analog, its potential magnitude (higher x lower) and distance between them (near x distant).
Researchers have evaluated this impact in the English, Chinese and Spanish languages and how numbers' phonemes are constructed in each of these languages, confirming that the sound of phonemes can influence human perception beyond the conscious meaning they represent (ie, the word that they form).
That's called phonetic symbolism, words' or phonemes' ability in particular to influence perceptions; the way the word sounds influences the semantic dimension assigned to it.
So, the sound of numbers that make up a price can unconsciously affect the consumer and distort the perception of their numerical magnitude.
Using one of the mentioned examples, a $ 11 to $ 7.88 (-28.4%) variation sounds more attractive to a potential consumer than a $ 11 to $ 7.01 (-29.9%) variation. One of the reasons given is that the processing of price information is related to the registration of magnitude and relative sizes representation in an analogic organization of numbers, from left to right.
Among their conclusions, price discounts were overestimated for frontal vowels and fricative consonants rather than for later vowels and stop consonants.
Base price $ 10: The value of $ 7.66 (“seven, sixty-six”) generated a discount perception greater than $ 7,22 (“seven, twenty-two”).
Base price $ 3: The value of $ 2.33 (“two, thirty-three”) generated a discount perception greater than $ 2.22 (“two, twenty-two”).
In the same way, they infer that prices ending with phonemes would have a perception of lower magnitude; Roughly, something that costs “$ 7.66” passes a more economical perception than “$ 7.22”.
Here's an opportunity to replicate the experiment in other languages. Is “vingt huit euros et quatre-vingt centimes” more attractive than “vingt cinq euros et cinq vingt centimes”?