Should I display prices on my website?

Is displaying prices a good idea?

Is displaying prices a good idea?

If a potential customer is trying to find out how much you charge, would it hurt to actually let them know?

Let's explore why it could be a good idea to display prices on your website...

Let's explore why it could be a good idea to display prices on your website...

Should I display prices on my website?

Should I display prices on my website?

Let’s begin with the obvious...

If you sell products on an e-commerce store, you need to display prices. That applies to online e-commerce websites selling tangible items that can be delivered, software packages that can be downloaded once purchased, monthly or annual subscriptions to online tools, and a whole range of other things that you NEED to know the price of so you can make a purchase without having to personally engage with a real person.

But what if you’re in a service industry?

Without prior consultation or inspection, it might not be easy to put a fixed price on services such as fitting a radiator, installing a hot tub, repairing a dented car bumper or landscaping a garden. But there are services you might offer which have a typical average or from price that could give potential customers a guide.

Let's look at an example which is very relevant to me... building websites.

Websites can range from one to many hundreds of pages. Their purpose can range from simply providing information or displaying examples of work that a business has done; enrolling people into a club or loyalty scheme; booking tickets to an event; selling goods and updating stock levels; providing reviews of products or services, and so much more.

There is also the ongoing development, maintenance and marketing which is an essential part of the life cycle of most websites, so clearly there is no simple answer to How much does a website cost?

Yet this is a question so many people ask, and if they arrive at my website hoping to find the answer to that question, don’t you think it’s in my best interest (and theirs) to help them in some way?

I could do this through explanation, provide a table of package options for comparison, a guide from price, etc., or they could leave my website and continue in their quest to find the answer elsewhere.

If they're looking for the answer, they WILL find it somewhere!

If a potential customer is looking for the answer, they WILL find it somewhere, but could I honestly expect them to come back to my website after they have eventually found the answer on another website?

Of course not!

I give credit to some of the explanations around this subject to Marcus Sheridan in his book They Ask, You Answer. After I had read his book and listened to some speeches and interviews, it caused me to re-think my approach to displaying prices on my website, and take what felt like a bold step in publishing them.

Displaying prices might not suit every business and it doesn’t sit well with everyone, that’s for sure. So how about we look at a situation that some people may prefer to avoid... speaking to a salesperson, either face to face on over the phone.

What motivates people to buy?

When purchasing, people are often motivated by emotion and the need to solve a problem, seek security, status, fear of being left behind by their peers, wanting to be the first or have the best, etc.

So when you're in an environment where there are salespeople whose job it is to sell you products or services, how often do you feel under some kind of pressure or obligation to say yes when they try to close the deal?

Some people are fine with it, but others are not. Many people simply want to ask a question, get it answered, and be given time to think it through without being pressured by being told that the price can only be held for today, or that it's the last one available.

Win-Win: Ideal but not always true

I fully agree with the principle that the buyer and seller should benefit mutually from the sale, where there is a win-win to be had and everyone feels great about it. But that requires the salesperson to fully understand the position you’re in, and what your needs, fears, wants, desires and concerns are.

If the salesperson has genuine empathy for you, their motivation should be to help you to decide without applying pressure on you, and without them being motivated by having to meet sales targets or being asked by their sales manager why they let you walk out of the store empty handed.

No one wants to get the raw end of the deal

I realise that world of face to face sales is very much driven by closing the deal. Salespeople have been trained to recognise and focus on buying signals, overcome objections, and in some cases act with disbelief that you can't see what a great deal this is!

Neither the buyer or the seller wants to feel that they've got the raw end of the deal, and so it’s understandable why many of us (me included) prefer to take our own time to consider the offer.

On websites there are other things to factor in

If the services provided or products for sale are not quite what you’re need, or the website looks unprofessional, doesn’t work well (especially on mobile) and you can’t find what you’re looking for... whether it be specific products, services or information, you can leave... It’s as easy as that.

Of course one of the pieces of information you might be looking for is cost, and that is the purpose of this article.

So considering how much time and effort it can take to get someone to visit your website, and how easy it is for them to leave, let’s explore the pros and cons of displaying prices on your website...

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Why should I NOT display prices on my website?

1: It might put some customers off!

If you display a price before you have been able to show the value of what you have to offer, some people might look at your price and then start looking for someone else whose can do it cheaper. This is understandable for identical products, and especially when the purchase of that product requires no further interaction with the company.

Why would I buy a book for £20 when I can get the same one for £10?

But if I needed a laptop and wanted to be sure that if I had a problem I could get professional help and advice from the supplier, I might be less concerned about the cost, and more interested in the value the supplier can add.

Many people, myself included, are price sensitive to varying degrees, and in different ways to different things. But few of us would be completely happy if we only ever bought the cheapest products and services available, because quality, reliability, prestige, status, style and a whole bunch of other things motivate people to buy.

So there’s the value aspect to consider. It’s not just price. This is also very true for service industries.

2: My competitors will be able to see what I charge

You might also be concerned that that if your competitors see your prices, they would start undercutting you, or they might decide to offer their clients more for their money.

That’s fair competition, but let’s look at what undercutting and being in a price race to the bottom can lead to...

Competing on price alone

It’s tempting, especially for new businesses, to compete on price. When you have yet to establish a reputation and there’s nothing else to differentiate you from anyone else, then why not go in cheap and steal the show?

I'm not recommending you do that, but it is a common approach.

I only came to you because you're cheap

It almost sounds like an insult, doesn't it? That the only reason people will do businesses with you is because you're cheap! To be in a situation where the only reason people will do businesses with you is because you’re the cheapest is usually not good and it isn't sustainable.

There will be someone else out there who will undercut you to attract those bargain hunting customers, and then what? Will you then undercut them further and continue the downwards race to the bottom on price? Margins get squeezed, corners get cut, customers complain at the increasingly poor service they get, and you go out of business.

It happens in many industries, whether it be plumbing, plastering, window cleaning, electrical work, fencing, and even in my industry... building websites.

How does this happen?

Well despite having more than 27 years of professional experience in building and managing websites, I still face objections from people who consider websites to be commodities and tell me that they can get it done much cheaper.

Websites are not commodities

The fact is that there are people who have discovered WordPress and other website creation tools, and figured out how to easily build a basic website by dragging a few images onto a page, resizing them, adding some words, pressing the Publish button and consider it to be a job well done.

They can now call themselves web designers, and realise they can make some extra money on the side by building more cheap websites for local clubs and small businesses who are happy to save money, and therefore might not complain too much when they find that their website doesn't work well on mobile, and has unstable pages which move about whilst oversized images attempt to load.

Sorry, but my website isn't not working properly!

Their cheap website might throw an error or just stubbornly sit there without responding, or the page might freeze when the user starts to scroll. But the guy who had originally built the website might not have the knowledge, experience or even the desire to diagnose and fix the problems.

Besides the technical problems, he has realised that building and managing websites actually involves a lot of work, commitment and experience. He also realised that if he was to make a living out of building cheap websites, he would need to build 1 website a day, 5 websites a week, and 20 a month, otherwise he'll go out of business.

He'll have no time to manage and develop those websites properly, fix problems, or provide the additional services which most websites need to succeed, and that could end up losing his clients business.

Add value instead of cutting costs

Alternatively he could start adding value and justifiably be able to increase his prices. That would make far more sense.

But because he knows there are people out there who will continue to undercut and build cheaper websites, he fears that by putting prices on his own website it would encourage people to go elsewhere to find it cheaper. That is, of course, unless he is able to demonstrate why his service and the results he produces are better than his lower priced competitors.

So fear of being compared to others based on price alone might be enough to dissuade you from displaying prices on your website, but if you believe that you provide great value and can justify your prices, then why worry about your competitors knowing what you charge?

3. My prices are complicated

The pricing of services is typically less straight forward than the pricing of goods, because there are usually so many variables. Size, quantity, distance, preparation, quality and fluctuating cost of materials, time, urgency, and so on can all play a part in the overall cost of the service you provide.

So you might find it impossible to display even a guide price, and you could be concerned the even by publishing your average job price it might scare off a potential customer whose requirements would have actually cost much less than your average price!

But there may be ways for some service industries to give their customers at least some idea. I do this for building websites by providing a cost calculator to allow potential customers can try out a number of variations and options.

More about that later, though.

4. If they want to know, they’ll ask

The philosophy that people will contact you directly to ask is not something that works for everyone.

As mentioned previously, some people don't want to get into a conversation about things until they feel ready, but there may be other factors outside of their control that doesn't allow them to call you.

For example, those who are viewing your website during the evening might want to know there and then what you have to offer and how much it is likely to cost them. But if they need to contact you to find out, the times that you’re available and the times that they’re available might not coincide, because they’re working the next day and can’t call.

They might also be asking themselves why you’re not prepared to display prices. What are you hiding, and why are you not being transparent about your charges?

They’re valid questions!

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Why should I display prices on my website?

1: Having a strong brand

If you’re in a position where your expertise, level of service and the value you add can make you stand out from your competition, that’s where having a strong brand is important, and price becomes less relevant than it is when there's nothing else to distinguish you from your competition.

People will still want to know how much they’re likely to pay, but if you’re prepared to be upfront with your pricing and are able to show what value you add and why it's worth doing business with you even though there are cheaper options available, you should have little to fear.

People will still want to know how much they’re likely to pay, but if you’re prepared to be upfront with your pricing and are able to show what value you add and why it's worth doing business with you even though there are cheaper options available, you should have little to fear.

Let’s briefly consider the levels that establishing a strong brand can take you through:

Brand awareness

People start to recognise your name, and what you do. It might not be enough for them to immediately choose you, but at least they’ve heard of you, and over time the awareness of your brand will grow.

Of course brand awareness can grow for good and bad reasons. We're all aware of some brands that have a bad reputation and you won't touch them for that reason, whilst there are other brands who you immediately associate with having a good reputation.

Amongst those with a good reputation there might be some brands you prefer over others, and that brings me onto...

Brand preference

Brand preference is where we’ve gone beyond brand awareness and reached a point where people prefer your brand over others. Maybe this would include Coke over Pepsi, Levis over Wrangler, Pizza Hut over Pizza Express, BMW over Vauxhall, etc.

With brand preference you stand a better chance of getting repeat business.

Brand insistence

This is a great point to reach, where people actually insist on using your brand over any other. When people insist on your brand, your chances of repeat business are even higher, because people are automatically excluding your competitors in favour of your brand.

Brand advocacy

This is where people actually recommend you to other people. They’re doing some of your marketing for you and spreading the word through recommendation, and recommendations can make it so easy to generate new business.

Brand advocacy is a great position to be in, but there’s an even better position...

Raving fans

If you reach the point where people like your products or services so much that they’ll go out of their way to spread the word about your brand, you’ve cracked it... People are out there talking about you with a degree of enthusiasm.

So think about this for a minute... how would you feel if there are people out there right now recommending you because you gave great service; or the quality of your work or products are incredible; or you’re such a great guy or company to do business with because of your expertise, professionalism, friendliness, trustworthiness, and that you really have your customer’s best interests at heart?

So instead of just doing a good job, give them something to shout about!

2: Help your customers to help themselves

Your website could be considered as a self-service tool which allows people to make their own decisions there and then. It can be a salesman-free environment where people can take their own time to consider what you have to offer, and do any research on you, your services or products if necessary.

In a one-to-one conversation many people feel uncomfortable and even embarrassed to admit that they can’t afford something. Or maybe they can afford it, but they’re still not completely certain that what you're offering is right for them, so they want to think about it without feeling any pressure.

This doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to tempt people to buy by means of promotions and special offers, and it's quite commonplace to find businesses generating a sense of urgency through messages like:

  • Get it NOW!
  • 57 already sold today and only 3 left!
  • This offer is limited to the first 5 people who get in touch.
  • Offer ends midnight on Monday

Whether or not these act now or miss out calls to action are true or just levers to get us to take action, at least by displaying prices on your website and providing all the information your potential customer needs, you're handing control to your potential customers.

3: Attracting the right type of customer

You might be too expensive for some people, but let me ask you this...

Based on the level of service you provide, and the experience you back it up by, do you consider your pricing structure to be fair and reasonable? Can you justify it, and believe that you offer great value despite not being the cheapest?

If the answers to those questions is Yes but you still get people telling you you're too expensive, would you allow yourself to be negotiated down to a point where you feel that they're getting an incredible deal but you're working for peanuts?

I doubt it. And therefore that is not your target customer.

Maybe you could meet that lower price, but you would need to lower your quality and cut corners in doing so. This could lead to dissatisfaction on both sides, because you know you're compromising and doing substandard for lower pay, and your customer might not be happy with the results even though they got it cheap.

Any subsequent complaints could damage your reputation and brand, but on the other hand they might be really happy with what you've done for them, and start recommending you as being good and really cheap which is probably not the kind of recommendation you want, is it?

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Price display suggestions

I approach the display of prices in a slightly different way where the cost of building websites is concerned.

In one respect I provide a number of fixed price packages with clearly defined features which are included in those packages. They’re set out on my website in a way which makes it really easy for a potential customer to compare packages and make their decision easier.

I also provide a web design cost calculator. It's pretty flexible and provides a lot of options which customers can select to dynamically generate a guide price, although it won't be able to cater for every single bespoke case.

It explains what each of the features do, which are included as standard, and what impact adding or removing features and quantities does to the price. Budget or lower priced web designers might not offer or include some of those features, but the cost calculator allows potential customers to get a better understanding of what they can get, AND the level of knowledge it coveys can help to strengthen Targa’s brand.

It also calculates split payment options, but of course if the cost it originally calculated was way off what they expected, they won’t call. That will save both them and myself time and effort because it will be clear that we’re not the right client/supplier fit.

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In summary

Advantages of displaying prices on your website

  • Transparency: Displaying prices upfront can help potential customers understand the cost of your services and avoid any surprises later on. This brings with it a level of trust.
  • Time-saving: Customers who are looking for specific pricing information can find it quickly and easily, which can save you time by avoiding unnecessary enquiries, and saves your customers from looking elsewhere unnecessarily.
  • Qualifying leads: By showing your prices, you can attract customers who are willing to pay your rates based on the service and value you provide, and you'll avoid those who are looking for the cheapest option.

Disadvantages of displaying prices on your website

  • Complexity: Depending on the nature of your services, pricing can be complex and difficult to display accurately on your website. This can lead to a lack of understanding and inaccurate expectations being set.
  • Variations from customer to customer: In many service industries, the specific needs of each customer can vary enormously, and so to displaying a fixed price on your website may not accurately reflect the final cost. A from price or a average price may therefore suffice.
  • Competition: In one respect you might be concerned that your competitors will find out what you charge, but on the other hand they may be displaying their prices and you feel obliged to follow suit, even if you don't feel comfortable about it.

You will make up your own mind as to whether or not it is wise or even possible to display prices on your website. Ask people what they think, and look at what your competitors do. If they display prices and you don’t, should you reconsider your position?

Lead the way or follow your competitors?

Likewise if they don’t display their prices, would it be an advantage for you to be the only one amongst your competitors who is prepared to provide the pricing information potential customers may be looking for?

Just be sure to weigh up the pros and cons before making a decision.

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Daron Harvey

I'm Daron Harvey, founder of Targa Web Solutions, specialising in AI chatbot implementation, website testing, auditing & consultancy. I am now in my 28th year of professional website production, testing and eCommerce best practices, and excited about the opportunities that AI chatbots and digital assistants can bring to ourselves, our customers, and our customer's customers.
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