Last Updated on September 29, 2023 by Jan Barley
Find Out How to Make Your Customers Experience Less Pain
The pain of paying is a bias where we experience negative emotions when we pay for something. The level of discomfort depends on the timing & payment method.
It’s less uncomfortable to pay by debit or credit card & more painful to pay with cash. For the latter, we feel a sense of loss when money leaves our purse or wallet.
Contactless payments are much easier for us emotionally & we are more inclined to spend more than we would if paying with cash—likewise, mobile phone payments.
Dan Ariely, the author of “Predictably Irrational”, says the more abstract the payment method, the less painful it is.
A study by Brian Knutson, a professor of psychology & neuroscience, studied this fascinating bias in 2007. Brain scans revealed that if we perceive a price as too high, the insular cortex (which receives sensory data & feelings of pain) reacts, resulting in a response similar to physical pain. Weird.
Since learning about this bias, I’ve started noticing how it affects me. I recently subscribed to a training portal for £40.00 monthly with a year’s commitment. A month later, the company offered a full years subscription for £200.00, & I snapped it up.
Oddly, £40 a month seemed much more painful than laying out a lump sum with 50% savings.
Why Free Doesn’t Work
Companies often offer free trials, but the customer must cough up the money on the due date. Offering discounted subscriptions is preferable as the customer perceives more value from paid to upgrade trials than free to paid options.
I plan to start a membership community this year to help writers. All the established platforms suggest that you don’t offer free community access. It’s better to provide rewards and benefits than to upscale free members to paid.
For instance, the training company’s deal gives me access to multiple courses for half the regular fee. It felt like a win-win situation.
Consumers perceive products sold for £2.99 as lower than £3.00, even though it’s only one penny. If your coaching offer is £3,000, reframe it as £2,995. It seems inconsequential, but it’s one of the ways our brains perceive value.
Even better, don’t put a currency symbol in front of the cost. This tip works exceptionally well on restaurant menus, dramatically impacting the pain of paying bias. I know it sounds weird, but it works. If you retain the symbol, make it in a smaller font.
Refund Policies & Free Returns
Both policies address customers’ uncertainty about ordering your product.
- Payment methods: Mobile phone or card.
- Upfront payments: payment in advance seems to minimise the pain of paying.
- Add value: Give something for free. Surprise your customers with a gift as a thank you for their custom.
- Add multiple trust symbols: Including site security, Trustpilot reviews, customer testimonials & case studies
Consumer neuroscience is simple if you understand we are flawed beings with many unconscious biases. We think we’re cognitively in control, but we aren’t. On your travels, start noticing the few things I mentioned and see how it makes you feel.
You see, just because I’m an SEO coach, it doesn’t define me. I have a solid grasp of what makes people “buy”
I am an SEO Coach and writer helping heart-led small business owners learn how to rank on Google.