Should You Put Prices In Marketing Emails?
By Amanda Gagnon June 8, 2011
You may think you’re trying to sell your products or service in your emails.
Some people would say you’re wrong.
You never actually complete a sale in an email – that happens on your web site. So your email, they say, should sell a click to your site. Then on your site, you can talk details like price to sell the product.
Jay, whom you may have met in a webinar, disagrees. He much prefers prices listed right within emails. Then he can weigh all his options without clicking anywhere for more information.
So… should you list prices in your emails or not? Let’s discuss this.
They Say: Entice Now, Sell Later
When people check their email, they have dozens of things on their mind. To get a reaction from them, your email needs to be irresistible.
It needs to paint an alluring picture. To make them want your product so badly, they can’t look away, and they’re itching to click through and find out how to get it.
Talking price would break the spell.
This may sound fantastical, but it’s got a practical benefit: back on your site, you have plenty of room to counteract any negative reaction someone may have to the price. See for yourself:
In their emails, French Connection creates a desire to buy without alluding to price at all. Back on their site, they keep selling readers on the product for at least one (and up to three) pages before mentioning the cost.
Finally, when they do list the price, they counter it with the idea of owning the entire coordinated outfit and a feeling of urgency that, if the jacket isn’t sold out yet, it may be soon.
Jay Says: Present Your Price As Soon As Possible
Some consumers, like Jay, are tougher sells. They’re not as entranced by the spell you’ve woven. These tougher consumers believe there’s always a flip side, and they don’t want to spend their time clicking around to find out what it is.
So, seeing no price, they shrug and delete your email. Then they go respond to messages with prices displayed, like this one from Tiger Direct.
“If I’m going to buy something, I’ve already done the research as to what it is, and now I just want to know where I can get it and for how much,” he says.
Whether or not you include prices in your email depends on two things:
1. Your audience. Every business attracts a different kind of following. Does your readers want to be swept off their feet and trust you to tell them what’s worth buying? Or are they more cynical and want their information up front?
Maybe you have an audience of bargain-hunters, for whom a good price is paramount. Or maybe for your readers, price is no object as long as they’re getting the best.
2. Your brand image. Do you compete on price? Or do you have well-established competitors who sell cheaper, but can’t match the quality you provide?
If you’re not sure how your readers feel or what exactly you’re competing on, you can always run a split test to find out.
Either Way, Send Value
This doesn’t just mean 15%-off offers – those are a dime a dozen. It means being helpful. Not just promoting products your subscribers just might want, but truly anticipating their needs and concerns, then thoroughly meeting them.
For example, this email from retailer Dorothy Perkins not only presents two outfit ideas for each pair of trousers, it explains what you’d wear the outfits for.
And here, Uncommon Goods‘ message (very creative for an HTML retail email) starts with the problem, then offers products as fun solutions.
What’s Your Price Preference?
Do you list prices in your emails? Do you feel that helps you sell more products?
Or do you keep mum about money ’til you’ve got your readers on your site?
Linda Bustos6/8/2011 1:10 pm
Thought provoking topic and some great examples!
Just to clarify, the link to the Drs. Foster and Smith case on my site actually does show the price in both versions, the difference was one was focused on the “offer” as more prominent, and the other was more informative in tone, the headline being about protecting dogs from fleas. So I think prices should most always be shown in the email, but you can play around with their prominence and presentation 🙂
Keep up the good work
Dale6/9/2011 10:12 am
I prefer to put a price in my emails along with a great CTA. It pre-qualifies the list, by not inflating my click thru rate due to a bunch of curiosity seekers which helps me in test marketing.
Sarah6/9/2011 11:00 am
When you put the price in the email, you make it more of the focus of what you’re selling. When you keep it off, you can focus on selling the solution you offer, it’s value to them, not its price.
By waiting to list the price on the sales page, you can then gauge interest in your solution by CT’s and test the price separately.
And, you set the stage for your prospect being interested in your solution more than they are interested in the price.
Only if you’re selling point is that you’re offering rock bottom, bargain prices should you put the price in the email.
Luiz Marques6/9/2011 11:51 am
I was a bit disappointed by the article. I was pretty sure it’d include at least a simple A-B test with anecdotal data suggesting that one way or the other was better… (yes, of course the conclusion for clothing vs hardware is bound to be different, but still, some real data would be nice)
Bev Carlson6/9/2011 12:49 pm
You provided my answer in this quote: “Maybe you have an audience of bargain-hunters, for whom a good price is paramount. Or maybe for your readers, price is no object as long as they
Amanda Gagnon6/9/2011 2:46 pm
Linda ~ Thanks for weighing in!
Sarah ~ Astute observation – if the bargain is too good to pass up, maybe it is the solution.
Luiz ~ You’re right – including data to support either side could be misleading to the businesses it doesn’t apply to.
John6/9/2011 5:00 pm
I personally detest scrolling down a very long page looking for the price, because if I like a product enough to buy I have made my mind up above the fold. Scrolling down only makes me change it to a negative.
If I’m interested enough to subscribe to your email campaign, treat me with respect and tell me the price.
Jery Jeritza6/10/2011 2:56 am
I have tried both ways of advertising and I think it really all comes down to what you are trying to sell. If you have a great promotional price it tends to get a good response. If I am trying to sell one of the more upscale or high end condominiums I will tell a story and sell them the concept, then hit them with the price.
Basically people that are new to investment or have limited funds tend to go for the HTML with the price and those with a larger budget want all of the details. Just my observation. I am also finding that HTML campaigns are becoming less and less effective.
Robert Deveau6/11/2011 9:06 pm
I agree with selling the click. For that reason, I never put the price in my emails. If I have made the email enticing enough, the clicks will follow. If they want more information, my recipients will click. To me its pretty simple.
No one will decide not to click because the price isn’t there.
Marc Mays6/13/2011 3:12 am
In my experience, listing prices is fine if you are the lowest cost provider of a commodity item (as Tiger Direct seems to be), or if you are using items in your email as part of a loss-leader strategy to increase overall sales.
However, it’s almost always better to get the customer to your location (whether that’s a website, or physical store), and make the sale there. For every 1,000 emails I open (which have items + price listed), only about 1 or 2 are able to offer me the exact products or services that I’m looking for that moment, and am willing to buy right away.
Most merchants simply aren’t skilled enough marketers to read their customers’ minds successfully– so it’s best to start the dialogue elsewhere, and guide your customers towards what they need or prefer, and then let them make the sale for you.
Michael katz6/13/2011 9:47 am
Great article, Amanda, thanks. I think it’s very dependent as well on what you’re selling. My clients sell professional services (financial planners, recruiters, coaches, etc.).
For people like us, not only should price not be in the email, it shouldn’t be on the web site. Nobody hires a professional service provider without a conversation and by not including price, the professional gets to hear the reaction to the fee from the prospective client. Very valuable, particularly for those who are new to articulating their services and the associated fees.
Thanks again for your article, keep up your great writing.