Thanks to numerical cognition, you can make prices seem lower through spatial positioning. This video explains the optimal location for your price…
You’re creating a layout that describes a product…where should you position your price within that design? Does it even matter?
In this video, I’ll explain why it matters. I’ll first describe the research on visual location and numerical cognition. And then I’ll explain where the optimal location for your price would be within that layout.
Part 1: Visual Positioning & Numerical Cognition
So first, what’s the relationship between visual positioning and numerical cognition? Well, the answer can be found in the spatial-numerical association of response codes, otherwise known as the SNARC effect.
If I presented digits in front of you and asked you to press one key if the digit were even, and another key if the digit were odd, you’d be able to respond more quickly to small digits if you were using your left hand, and likewise, you’d be able to respond faster with larger digits if you were using your right hand. That’s the SNARC effect.
And researchers attribute that effect to the way that you conceptualize numbers. When you conceptualize numbers, you attach a spatial orientation to them. You imagine this mental ruler, with smaller numbers positioned on the left and larger numbers positioned on the right — very similar to a number line. And over time, you begin to associate leftness with small magnitudes and rightness with large magnitudes.
However, based on the research, I would also venture a guess that this effect would also apply to vertical orientation, with larger numbers positioned toward the top, and smaller numbers positioned toward the bottom. But that’s an overview of the SNARC effect.
Part 2: How to Choose the Best Location
And now…how can you apply that? Does that mean you should position your prices near the bottom or the left of things so that you trigger a perception of a small magnitude?
Well…yes and no. I’d recommend positioning LOW prices on the bottom-left and HIGH prices on the top-right. Let’s look at each scenario.
If your price is considered low — relative to similar products — I’d recommend placing it toward the left, bottom, or bottom-left of the visual context.
Now, when I wrote my original article on pricing, I explained how those placements subconsciously influence people to perceive a lower magnitude for your price. But I think that’s wrong. I changed my view since writing that article.
It has less to do with influencing the perceived magnitude and more to do with increasing the processing speed of that price.
So in another study, researchers exposed people to different numbers, and afterward they displayed two images on the screen. People who were exposed to small numbers tended to look at the image on the left, whereas larger numbers guided people toward the image on the right.
Our eyes have a subconscious association with those respective areas. We subconsciously expect to see low prices on the left and high prices on the right. And, whenever we encounter a situation that matches our inherent expectations, we can cognitively process that situation faster and more easily. In other words, we experience higher processing fluency for that stimulus. And we develop a more favorable evaluation of that stimulus or context.
So if we see low prices on the left — the position that we subconsciously expect to see — it feels good. And so the price just feels right.
And that underlying reason is a very important distinction. Because that reason changes my original recommendation. When I wrote the original article, I explained that you should place ALL prices in the left, bottom, or bottom-left. However, if the processing fluency explanation is more accurate — which I DO think it has more credibility — then you should do the opposite for high prices.
Based on processing fluency, you should place high prices toward the right, top, or top-right of visual contexts. Those positions will be more congruent with people’s subconscious expectations. Those positions will increase processing fluency, and so the price will “feel right.”
If you positioned a high price toward the bottom-left, that position would be incongruent with people’s expectations. So there would be more DISfluency. And it would create an uneasy feeling that people would misattribute to the purchase decision.
Now, regardless whether your price is high or low, you should also consider the perceptual focus. For example, consider a book. A lot of books position prices in the top-right of the back cover, which — assuming that it’s a low priced book — it’s not a very conducive spot. A better strategy is when some books place the price in the lower-left of the back cover — sometimes in an enclosed box.
However, even though that position is toward the bottom-left of the cover, that placement still isn’t ideal…because the perceptual focus has narrowed. If you focus on that box, the price is positioned to the top-right. So the top-right is still the predominant spatial cue.
In order to maximize the effectiveness of this technique, you need to position low prices in the left, bottom, or bottom-left of someone’s perceptual focus. With low prices, you could place them in the bottom-left without a box OR the bottom of a pricing plan OR the left of a price tag. And you could choose the opposite locations for high prices. So always position your price in a location that is congruent with people’s numerical conceptualization.
And if you want a deeper look at the research behind these principles— or if you want to lean more pricing techniques— you can click below to download my full PDF on the psychology of pricing.