Anyone raised in the infomercial era known as the 80s and 90s…can appreciate the call to action….” But wait, there’s more. Not only do you get this lovely set of Ginsu knives for only $19.99, but today, for a limited time only, if you call within the next 30 minutes, we are going to be throwing in 2, you heard right…2 MORE SETS of Ginsu knives at no extra cost. That’s crazy, folks. But so crazy, we mean it.”
The whole psychology behind pricing is fascinating. What focus group is employed to decide the street value of the newest iPhone? And who came up with the concept of Happy Hour and don’t even get me started on who sets the prices for gas or airline seats for that matter. 😳
In the travel industry, sure, many of the prices for tour packages are set by the tour operators and wholesalers but there is still a lot of room for travel agents to apply pricing strategies to help close the sale. And it would be almost short-sighted not to.
All of these tactics have been studied and work to some degree. And some are just fun. In researching and writing this piece, I found myself thinking…aha! That’s why I mortgaged my left arm to purchase that Vitamix blender that now doubles as a flower vase.
Tactic One: Use “Charm Pricing” by reducing the left digit by one.
If the price of a package is really $5,023 per person. Reducing the left digit by one to make the selling price $4,997 or $4,999 gives the illusion that the overall cost is $1000 cheaper when in actuality, it’s merely $24 or $27 dollars cheaper.
This is an oldie but a goodie which is why it scores the top position on the list.
Tactic Two: Choose to price using fewer syllables.
No way…I hear you thinking. But according to studies, a price that is $1599 seems less expensive than $1589.95. Actually, now as I’m rereading this article, I’m thinkin’ hell ya…that’s so true. $1599 does sound like a steal.
Tactic Three: Lose the comma (s)
Even if it’s visually more appealing to include commas when listing prices, dump the commas.
Instead of $4,999 per person, go with $4999. Again, some really smart people ran the numbers and the results proved that prices without commas appeared less expensive.
Tactic Four: Per Person vs. Total Price
Most invoicing software creators think they are being super helpful by calculating the total cost for the holiday. But…when discussing pricing with clients, it always seems less GULP-worthy when you offer per person rates. No matter how you slice it, $14999 per person sounds far more attractive than $29,998. It just does.
Tactic Five: Package pricing can be a good thing
There are a ton of good reasons to wrap up all your pricing into one neat bow. Package pricing inhibits the shoppers from doing price comparisons, and nickel and diming you to the point you want to grab your bottle of scotch tucked neatly beneath your filing cabinet. Breaking down the costs of various travel components is often a slippery slope. And I’m not referring to the fun ones found in amusement parks.
But when using a package pricing strategy, be sure to be very clear of everything that is rolled up into that price. As long as a client can see the value they often prefer the one price option.
Tactic Six: Except when package pricing doesn’t work
But there are times when package pricing doesn’t always work.
Studies have proven that we run the risk of scaring away would-be travellers by offering
Sometimes, it makes more sense to draw in a potential client with a lower lead-in price and build the package from there. And no, I’m not talking about a highly unethical bait and switch scenario either.
Offering a low lead-in price can work if you are running an ad targeted at new clients who don’t yet know you and appreciate all the additional value you offer to the booking process.
An example of this might be advertising a 7-Night Alaskan cruise for $9899 per person. First, get the buy-in on that price and then suggest an upgrade to the VIP meal package for $259 per person more. So in this example, $9899 seems far less expensive than $10,158 even though it is essentially the same thing if purchased separately.
It’s not a Bait ‘n Switch. The $259 is simply an upgrade but one that remains optional. However, once a client wraps their head around the $9899 price tag, adding an extra $259 doesn’t seem too much of a stretch.
Tactic Seven: Breaking down the price into a per diem rate
This is a great way to frame pricing, especially when it comes to selling upgrades. An example might be in the difference between an entry-level room to an ocean-view honeymoon suite. To offer the upgrade as $1050 more for the week initially sounds like a lot.
Instead, position the upgrade…” For only $150 more per day, you and your bride will be able to wake up to see the waves lapping against your balcony and that claw-footed tub…ahhhhh….can you imagine the two of you submerged in bubbles, champagne in hand, watching the sunset over the water?
Dude…only $150 more per day?!?…DONE.
Tactic Eight: The installment plan
This has been an industry standard for decades and isn’t going away anytime soon. 10K for a holiday might seem like a lot but if we break that down into a deposit of $500 now. Then equal installments of $1000 each month leading up to the departure. Now that doesn’t sound too bad. It may cause you a bit of extra legwork unless you set things up automatically, but it’s worth considering. Notice I didn’t set this example at a 30 K safari.
If your client can afford a 30K safari, I’m going to go out on a baobab branch and suggest that playing games with numbers are not going to have the same effect.
Tactic Nine: The Latte Effect
The Latte Effect is when you anchor a price up against something relative to gain perspective. It’s a useful strategy when introducing upgrades. The concept gets its name by likening prices to that of a latte at which few people will bat an eyelash.
When it comes to travel, most upgrades are a little more expensive than the cost of 15 lattes (unless you are a Starbucks regular) but the concept remains the same. Instead, you could say…for the cost of a couple of bottles of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, you could get a balcony suite near the front of the ship.
Tactic Ten: Emotional vs. rational purchases
In an interesting study done back in 2015, Wadhwa and Zhang discovered that when it came to purchases that were emotionally driven…like travel, people responded better to round numbers, meaning no cents. Study participants remarked that the price just “felt right” when rounded. So $3890 per person sounds better than $3857.89.
Unless…it was too rounded, for example, a week-long Sandals vacation for $5000 sounds artificially “inflated” as if whoever was in charge of pricing that brochure was on their own vacation.
Whereas, if the item was less emotionally driven, and considered more of an essential item with less emotional attachment, for example…an office printer, then adding the cents felt more reasonable.
Tactic Eleven: Where to place the price
Yet another interesting study found that if the product was listed first and then the price, people tended to make their decisions based more on the attributes of the product.
And when the price was listed first, people tended to be more price-sensitive and based the qualities of the item against the price listed.
Therefore, when positioning your travel packages on your website, it is probably best to always lead with the benefits, the images, the inclusions of the travel package and then follow with the price
So instead of:
$3999 – for 7 days All-inclusive holiday escape in the Caribbean.
It would be better to have it read…
7 Days All-inclusive holiday escape in the Caribbean for $3999.
Tactic Twelve: It’s easier to reduce an inflated price than to increase a discounted price.
Many travel advisors are no stranger to the concept – and it’s not an exclusive strategy to the travel industry. While Tactic Six recommends offering a low lead-in price, that was specifically for advertising to new clients. When you are consulting with existing and repeat clients, it’s always better to start with a package price that may be slightly over budget but with an explanation as to the additional value, that the package offers.
The initial price offered becomes the anchoring price, and any value either added or removed will always be in relation to that anchor price. Offering a higher anchor price is always a better position to be in.
Tactic Thirteen: The middle of the road strategy
I fall for this strategy whenever I’m at the wine store. You can just call me silly putty – that’s how easily I’m manipulated by this classic pricing strategy. It turns out travel is a lot like buying wine. While not true for everyone…most people will actually say…” Well, we don’t need the most expensive cabin on the ship but we also don’t want an inside cabin, bottom deck near the engine room either.”
It’s can be a good tactic to present your client with three pricing options and be clear as to why each option is priced the way that it is. Regardless, studies have shown that Option two is often the clear winner.
Tactic Fourteen: Listing out all inclusions along with the price.
The more benefits you can show to illustrate the value of a price, the better. When listing the included extras, don’t leave anything out. As travel advisors, sometimes we take certain inclusions for granted. But your client may not realize that the unpacking of your suitcase is standard practice with the butler service at any Oberoi hotel.
Tactic Fifteen: Removing the $$$ signs
You probably shouldn’t remove the dollar sign if by doing so, you create confusion and ambiguity with your pricing. But have you ever noticed in many restaurants, when you look at the price, you just see a 28 listed off to the far right of the Squid Ink and Scallop Ravioli? That’s classy.
Of course, fancier restaurants won’t even list the price ‘cause we all know if you gotta ask. You ain’t got no business eating there in the first place. 😜
But yes, it’s been proven that removing the dollar signs helps make a price a little less garish and pedestrian.
Tactic Sixteen: If it sounds too good to be true…
Again, this comes back to the reference point of what a client expects to pay for a travel package. Many people have been conditioned to believe that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
People expect to pay fairly for a hiccupless holiday so don’t price your travel quote too cheaply thinking it will ensure the sale. It may just scare some people away.
Tactic Seventeen: Discounts
While I’m not a fan of discounts, sometimes they can be a creative tool if used sparingly. But what is the best way to display a discount? Should you use a percentage off or a dollar amount off?
Well, studies have proven that a good rule of thumb is this:
For items of $100s or less – a percentage discount is the way to go.
But for everything we sell – that being anything over $100, it is better to showcase the price with a dollar amount off.
So if something is regularly, $5489 per person. It is better to say….Save $550 per person rather than to say…save 10%.
And if you are going to offer a deal, it’s always best to offer a reasonable reason for the discount. You don’t want people thinking that the item should have been priced at that amount originally.
In most cases, the discounts are offered by your travel supplier so you may or may not know the reasoning for the discount, but if you do, it’s good to add it to the copy if you can.
And remember charm pricing used back in Tactic One?
It works in the reverse when used in discounts. Instead of saving $399 per person, it’s better to say, …Save $400 per person – Always round up and never include the cents.
Again, use discounts very sparingly. It not only cheapens the perceived value of the product overall but also conditions the client to hold out and wait for even deeper discounts. Stand behind your pricing assuming it’s fair. People have a good sense that they get what they pay for.
Using a discount strategy to sweeten a deal around a special event like Valentine’s Day or President’s Day or Mickey Mouse’s birthday…can feel like a special treat.
How about you? Do you have a pricing strategy not mentioned above that you like to use? Leave it in the comments.