The benefits of showing your price online far outweigh the downsides.
Start out by thinking about what your objectives you have for your online presence and also think about what your customers want and expect from your website. Recognize that consumers’ expectations, behaviors and preference are changing rapidly on the Internet – trends show consumers expect full-featured, self-service shopping experiences.
Typically, an online consumer wants the following:
As a vendor, you should think about progressing your online presence through these stages:
A move from stage 1 to stage 2 can make a dramatic difference in the effectiveness of your online presence – both in terms of sales growth and efficiency. If consumers have self-qualified then their major barriers to purchase have been addressed so they will be ready to purchase. Your sales people can help them verify their selections, help the customers consider extra options or accessories and take the order.
However, you can’t effectively move from stage 1 to stage 2 without sharing your pricing.
What we hear from vendors that are resistant to share pricing is that they don’t want their competitors to know or that they don’t want consumers to shop only based on price. Regarding the first concern, I always recommend doing the best thing for the consumer before worrying about the risk of a competitor exploiting the information. Also, if you don’t share price you will frustrate consumers and lose them. See this good article about showing prices (it is discussing B2B sites but the same issue applies at least as much to B2C sites).
Regarding the second issue, customers shopping only on price, you have control over what information is available to your consumers and whatever you provide will be used as a buying criteria. If all you show is price that will be the only criteria the buyer can use. Give them enough information to engage with you, make it clear why you are different and they will use that as well. But whatever you do, please share your price.]]>
There have to be a million different versions of the sales funnel. Many generic funnels start with “Prospect” and go to “Lead” and eventually end up with a sale but here is one you may not have seen. This one is modeled after the flow of visitors to your website. I didn’t invent this and in fact, I saw a version of this most recently on findandconvert.com so I know I am not the only one who uses it.
What I like about this funnel is that it is a modern view of Internet-based leads. Here is how it works. First, a visitor lands on your site. Next, they are interested enough to click on some call to action and then they decide to engage in the material you offer. If you haven’t lost them yet, you can use the content of your website to further nurture them until they have the confidence to purchase.
It’s a useful exercise to consider how your website facilitates this process. What is your “call to action” that drives the initial visitor to click through to more content? Once they have clicked through, how do you engage and further nurture them so they land on the product or service most relevant to them? And after they have been through that content have you sufficiently built their confidence in your company and your product so they will make a purchase?
If you are like most vendors who utilize (and value) Internet leads you spend a disproportionate amount of your lead generation budget on the very first stage. That first stage is the advertising or SEO required to get visitors to your site. You probably also spend a lot of money on the salaries and systems required to create a proposal or take an order when someone is ready to engage 1-on-1. The area where you spend the least is in the middle. That’s the website content that provides a self-service experience for your customer to identify what product and options is right for them, what they should value and why they should trust you. Customers expect to be able to serve themselves on your website through this part of the research and decision process but it is often the weak link in the chain.
Here is another way to look at the process. When a prospective customer goes shopping on the Internet they first want to educate themselves on the available choices and use this information to formulate their purchase criteria. Maybe in some shopping situations they already have all of their shopping criteria in mind but more likely they only have part of the criteria and they visit websites like yours to determine what should be important. Next, they want to see what is available and narrow down the choices based on their criteria. If all goes well, they find a product on your website that meets these criteria and they are confident you can deliver it so they initiate 1-on-1 contact (or they purchase directly).
The implications of this customer behavior is that you, the vendor, want your website to easily facilitate this process. To do that, you will need to invest in organizing your website in way that a customer can explore your products and options, understand why they are important and how they are priced. Think about the first 3-5 questions that your sales person uses to determine what product configuration is appropriate – does your website do a nice job of narrowing down the choices for the customer like the sales person does? To serve this stage of a customer’s research and decision process you don’t need to present all the detail In fact, you are better off keeping it simple and making it easy to navigate. Just be clear about your differentiation so the customer begins to build that into their decision criteria.
Finally, make the experience fun and engaging so the customer wants to spend more time on your site rather than your competitors. Oh, and by the way, a highly visual, 3D product configurator may really help!]]>
Although the configurator doesn’t allow you to view the car from any angle, the photos are very attractive and slightly interactive. When I hovered my mouse over the different models the configurator turned the headlights on the car as nice form of visual feedback. If I clicked on a model it brought the car to the front (see the GT Premium above).
I also particularly like the highlighting of the price throughout the process. Although providing MSRP pricing is standard for automobile companies there are many other industries where it is not, or only base price is shown. Unfortunately, if you limit the buyer’s ability to research the product with it’s pricing they are less likely to engage in a sales conversation.
Let’s continue with the Ford configurator… Once I select the model I am interested in, the configurator leads me to a page where I can select packages. In this case, there is a premium package that costs $1,795 MSRP.
I’m not particularly impressed with this step in the configurator. There are several problems, one is that the images are small and not very meaningful. In addition, the collection of features in this premium package does not appear to be purpose driven – in other words, it appears only to be targeted at someone who wants to spend more money. It would be much more helpful if the packages were split based on the purpose the car was being purchased for, for example, “the audiophile package” or the “touring package”. If it were, then buyers could more quickly identify what was appropriate for them without needing to understand the particular features.
Another thing I don’t like about this step is that it violates one of the well accepted rules of product configurators – it forces the buyer through a series of steps without an obvious way to complete the process early. Most modern configurators allow the buyer to complete the configuration process at any point during the selection process.
Let’s continue to the next page.
I love this page! It is highly interactive, visual and just fun. When you make a change that effects the price, the price digits roll like slot machine. When I change the colors, one color fades into another. The packages are purpose-driven and they change the image of the product so you know exactly how your choices will affect your purchase.
Let’s skip to the last page.
This page is nicely formatted with a good summary of the choices I have made. The product picture is small but beautiful and it appears to be visually accurate with respect to all the choices I made. My only critique of this page is that it is not obvious how to save the configuration for later recall. I would definitely recommend to Ford to add a way for buyers to email the configuration to themselves with a link that recalls the configuration.
Overall I would say that Ford did a nice job with this configurator. Ultimately, I think three criteria rise above all others when evaluating a configurator: how engaging is it? How effective is it? How efficient is it?
I give Ford a high score (A) for engagement due to their nice visual and interactive elements. Ford gets a fairly high score (B) on effectiveness where I define effectiveness as the configurators ability to guide the user to a product that matches their needs/desires. On the positive side, most of the packages are purpose driven, there aren’t an overwhelming number of options and it is easy to see how your choices effect the product being purchase. On the negative side, I can’t save my configuration, I don’t have a running summary of my choices and not all packages are purpose driven. Finally, Ford gets a moderate score (B-) on efficiency due to the configurator forcing you through a series of steps rather than allowing me to configure options in any order and in any level of detail I want.]]>