Big Numbers Convert Better

By Roger Dooley
Author, Brainfluence

We know that customers love to save money, so offering a sale price is a proven way to boost conversion. But, you can express those savings in different ways. For example, you could advertise either “price cut 33%” or “50% more” product. Those offers represent the same level of discounting. The math may end up the same either way, but we don’t think of those numbers as being the same. A study conducted by Minnesota scientists found that a “50% bonus pack” outsold a “35% discount” by a substantial margin – 71% – even though the latter is a marginally better deal.

Math Makes Us Think

Our brains aren’t good at automatically determining which deal is best, which explains why a “50%” number looks more attractive than “35%” even when mathematically it is actually worse. The scientists attribute this phenomenon, “base value neglect”, to our brain taking a shortcut to avoid actually calculating. We look at the percent, but we don’t pay attention to the number to which the percent applies!


big numbersPercents: Bigger is Better

To apply this research on your website, express your promotion in terms of the biggest percent you can. Every sale price can be expressed in multiple ways, but the biggest number should convert better. Promotions that offer, for example, “50% more,” come with an additional benefit – you may increase your average order size, too.


Stacked Discounts

We’ve all seen department store sales that stack discounts, i.e., offer a percentage discount on top of another percentage discount. Our lazy brains don’t do the math on those, either. A “25% off” a price already marked down by 25% seems like a 50% discount, even though it’s actually 43%.


Don’t Forget FREE!

One of the most potent words in advertising is “FREE!” – see The Power of FREE!. (The scientists that did the study were aware of this, so they actually eliminated the word “free” from their bonus offers – they thought the subjects might be so taken with the “free” that it would skew the percent data!)

If you are focused on conversion instead of data purity, though, you should use FREE! whenever you can. You could say “25% Bonus” or “25% More,” for example, but you’ll almost certainly boost your conversion if you say “25% More FREE!”

To sum up, combine the biggest percentages with the word FREE! and you’ll convert much better than if you offer a simple discount – even if the price is actually the same!

About the Author

roger_dooley-vRoger Dooley is the author of Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing (Wiley, 2011). Find Roger on Twitter as @rogerdooley and at his blogs, Neuromarketing and Brainy Marketing at Forbes.

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