The Sneaky Pricing Tricks Retailers Use to Force You Into Buying

When it comes to consumer behaviour, it turns out cents are more important than dollars. The latest Journal of Consumer Research shows rounded numbers increase the chances of consumers buying a product when driven by feelings. So for example, when wanting to buy a camera priced at $200 for a family vacation.

Non-rounded prices increase the chances of consumers buying a product when motivated by practical feelings, or, buying a camera for $198.76 for a class project.

The explanation goes like this:

“Because rounded numbers are more fluently processed, rounded prices encourage reliance on feelings. In contrast, because non-rounded numbers are disfluently processed, non-rounded prices encourage reliance on cognition.”

The authors, Monica Wadhwa from the Institute of Asian Consumer Insight and Kuangjie Zhang from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore said it all comes down to “feeling right.”


When the price type and purchase context matched, shoppers experience a sense of ‘feeling right’ and followed through with the purchase.

So for businesses or marketers selling recreational or personal products – things like holidays, clothes, bags – rounding prices can encourage consumers to rely on their feelings.

And for practical necessities like toiletries and appliances, non-rounded prices can get sales over the line.

For consumers though, it’s about being aware of the pricing strategies companies use, and looking at the actual savings on offer.

“Past research has generally focused on how an increase in a product’s price impacts perceptions related to the quality of the product. Ours is the first research to show that the mere roundedness of a price number could significantly influence consumer preferences, depending on whether a purchase is driven by feelings or has a more utilitarian purpose,” they conclude.


So next time you see those sweet pair of shoes (you don’t need) strategically priced at just $100, think twice. On the other hand, if they’re practical shoes you absolutely need for work, for example, they’ll be a steal for just $99.99.


Pic: Elliott Brown via Flickr.