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Why prices ending in 9 sell best: MIT study

Have you ever wondered why prices at retailers usually end in the number 9? It’s not because it’s a sexy number, there is science behind it.

pricing with nines

pricing with nines

Why the number nine is so powerful

[ba-pullquote align=”right”]Finding the right price to attach to a product or service is an art.[/ba-pullquote]Pricing your product or services may be one of the most stressful parts of owning a business. You know your service is valuable. You know there is an audience out there that understands that value. But finding the right price to attach to a product or service is an art. If you price something too high, you won’t be as successful. If you price things too low, customers may not think your service is valuable and you won’t be making what you deserve. Finding the perfect balance is important, but it’s also about knowing how customers view prices, especially prices that end in the number nine.

We’ve all seen pricing that ends in the number nine. Take purchasing gasoline, for instance. It always has the same formatting, no matter which gas station you frequent. You’ve seen it in nearly every store you’ve walked into. So, how do you take all of this and apply it to your own pricing? First you must understand the effect that ending a price with a nine can have on your customers or clients.

Experiment: women’s clothing

[ba-pullquote align=”right”]The $39 item sold the best, even better than the cheaper price of $34.[/ba-pullquote]MIT and the University of Chicago conducted an experiment with prices on women’s clothing. They had three basic prices, $34, $39, and $44. Surprisingly, the $39 item sold the best, even better than the cheaper price of $34. However, they did find that sales prices that are listed by the original price can easily beat out a price ending in nine. One reason is the mind sees the first set of numbers and registers it as priced in the 30-dollar range, even when it’s closer to the 40-dollar range. Purchasing an item for $39.99 will seem more of a value than purchasing the same item for $40 even. It’s only different by a penny, but that one penny seemingly takes the price to an entirely lower level, thus increasing the value and the deal.

Customers also sometimes prefer to pay a middle price rather than either end because it can feel as though they’re getting a great deal and it’s better quality than the lowest price. Customers are looking for bargains and value, and that combination can be difficult to come by. And that’s where you and your business come into the picture.

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Pricing your own services

[ba-pullquote align=”right”]Be open to change and improvement. Be open to progression.[/ba-pullquote]When pricing your services, consider offering a few price points and end them with a nine for good measure. You may find that your most popular service is the one priced right in the middle. Don’t feel as though you’re trapped once you choose your prices. You can always switch them if they’re not giving you the response you’re looking for. Be open to change and improvement. Be open to progression. That’s when you’ll find success and reach your professional goal.

Written By

The American Genius Staff Writer: Charlene Jimenez earned her Master's Degree in Arts and Culture with a Creative Writing concentration from the University of Denver after earning her Bachelor's Degree in English from Brigham Young University in Idaho. Jimenez's column is dedicated to business and technology tips, trends and best practices for entrepreneurs and small business professionals.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Lane Bailey

    July 6, 2012 at 10:53 am

    The problem with that is real estate search. I find that most consumers search with round numbers… like $100k to $125k. Pricing at $99,999 (or even the popular $99,900) means that the house is missed by a large percentage of consumers. The other thing to keep in mind is that were aren’t talking about a pair of pants, or even a fridge. We are talking about a house. The study specifically focused on a blouse around $40. That is a LOT different than a house that might be several hundred thousand dollars. What do you think?

  2. Mike Schmidt

    July 6, 2012 at 10:56 am

    9 has halways been my number. Born on the twenty-9th, married on 9-9-81 @ 9am. Number nine, Number 9, Number n9ne…

  3. Goodcleanliving

    July 6, 2012 at 11:03 am

    @AgentGenius It doesn’t work in real estate. Cheapens listings and dodges important Boolean search basis. Counter intuitive.

  4. DanielBates

    July 6, 2012 at 1:06 pm

     @Lane Bailey By the same logic that the listing misses the $100-125 range, doesn’t it fall into into the $75-100 range? Wouldn’t a good real estate agent search a larger range for their client anyway? 
     

  5. Lani Rosales

    July 8, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    i was born in 81. do i get a prize?

  6. Mike Schmidt

    July 8, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    You are a prize, but yes.

  7. Lani Rosales

    July 8, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    i sense sarcasm, Schmidty

  8. Mike Schmidt

    July 9, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Never.

  9. Mike Schmidt

    July 9, 2012 at 10:27 am

    And you really are. My days would be less interesting without your posts.

  10. Guyn22wun1

    July 9, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    @DawnaDavies https://t.co/xyjDyodw

  11. Nanette

    July 9, 2015 at 11:19 pm

    $39.99 vs $40.

    More like the businesses think that We, People are stupid and can't do math.

    • Lani Rosales

      July 10, 2015 at 12:04 pm

      Nanette, you're totally right, and since publication of this story, more research has been done that shows that our brains have been rewired to mistrust non-rounded numbers. The major exception is real estate, because of how syndication works (someone thinks they don't want anything $150k or over, so they limit search to under that, making Realtors price homes at $149,999 to be included in said search).

  12. Pingback: The Pricing Power of 9: Does it Work? - PayMotion™

  13. Pingback: Cheeky Sales Coach Episode 20 – Pricing – The Cheeky Sales Coach

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