Summary: Protective customers want to know the price as their #1 info need on any website — including B2B sites, but these sites often hide or obscure pricing information.
In numerous usability studies with business customers, we witness people getting frustrated and leaving sites that don’t show prices. Sometimes our clients don’t believe it until they see it happen with their own eyes. Business customers report pricing as the top most needed piece of information online, yet many business-to-business (B2B) sites don’t show it.
B2B-site creators must design websites to match the way people conduct research in the 21st century. Most web users prefer to find information on their own, not by interacting with a sales agent. Don’t assume that prospective customers will contact you for pricing, especially in the early research phase. Customers may travel far in their purchase journey before contacting suppliers. In our studies, we watch participants go to competitors’ sites when websites do not show prices. If pricing information can be found elsewhere, that’s where users will be. The first few websites that seem to have good product information (including pricing) will most likely make a candidate’s shortlist.
Companies rationalize reasons for not revealing prices online: we don’t want our competitors to know, price varies for different customers, price constantly fluctuates, customized services have unique prices, and so on. These excuses are legitimate reasons in almost all cases, but they’re still excuses. Not showing pricing works against customer needs and thus creates a hostile shopping experience. Remember the Halo Effect: people’s impression of one aspect of your brand (“they’re hiding the information I want”) transfers to their feelings about everything else (“they’re difficult to deal with; I don’t like them.”)
B2B transactions tend to have high-price tags and purchase decisions could result in strong repercussions. Relieve any tension people might have about doing business with your organization by offering details about products and services in a meaningful manner. This means being candid about the price. It’s good customer service. Stand out among your competitors by being transparent. People view companies that hide costs as being evasive and untrustworthy. Don’t turn potential buyers away thinking that “If I have to ask, I can’t afford it.” B2B sites must strike the right balance between self-service activities and involvement from internal representatives.
Why Business Users Need Pricing Information
Businesses must know the cost (even if it’s rough) for several reasons:
Price determines product category. Showing the price tells people whether or not they are in the right product category. Businesses expect different pricing for consumer- and professional-grade products. For example, users looking for professional-grade devices could weed out anything with a relatively low-price tag because it probably wouldn’t have the features they need. Knowing the price at the beginning helps users quickly target items relevant to their situation.
Price is a key component in product comparison. Once people select potential candidates, pricing is critical in making trade-off decisions. Is it worth paying more to get this extra feature? Why do these two products look the same, but have different prices? Without the price, people can’t make effective comparative analyses.
Price is needed for planning. Large purchases often require months and sometimes years of planning. Prices are required to make budget-allocation decisions and for companies and contractors to submit bids to clients. In both cases, the exact cost isn’t critical; having even ballpark figures helps in the planning phase and ensures that the items are accounted for. Business customers are confident in their ability to negotiate better prices than what’s shown online. Nonetheless, seeing a price gave participants in our studies a starting point for understanding whether the item was likely to fall within their budgets.
What if You Can't Show Exact Prices?
Show sample prices.
Many B2B products and services are complex. The pricing structure varies for each client based on countless situations. Still, this is no excuse not to show pricing information. Prospects need immediate access to basic information during initial research. Estimates can often appease prospects during the research phase. When showing exact costs is unrealistic, help users by showing prices for typical scenarios, price range, or manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). Be sure to consult your legal department to determine appropriate and accurate ways to display your pricing information.
Choose typical-case scenarios over complex pricing calculators.
For complex pricing structures, it’s often better to provide cost information for a few representative scenarios than to offer a configurator that requires precise user input. In our studies, most pricing tools proved complex, time-consuming, and error prone. Only a few, highly engaged customers are likely to make the effort to enter data. A better approach is to offer sample prices, which typically placates prospects doing initial research.
Revealing price on your B2B website is one way to earn people’s trust. People view companies that show this key piece of information as being genuine and forthright. Transactions are more likely to occur when people feel educated about your offerings and trust your organization. Not showing pricing works against customer needs and thus introduces hostility into the research and shopping experience. Price is important. Address it.