Psychological Pricing

Odd Pricing

In the internet marketing world there is a rule that prices should end in a 7. Looking for an ebook or information product? Chances are the price will end in a 7.

We’re all used to prices end in a 9 in the retail world – such as $19.99.

These are examples of psychological pricing, which is a theory that certain prices have a psychological impact.

The idea is the marketer wants the consumer to respond on an emotional, rather than rational basis. It’s about leveraging the buyer’s ego and self image. The general assumption is price is an indication of quality and the goal with psychological pricing is to exploit that as much as possible.

Prices ending in 99 indicate low prices and signal “this is a value”. There are several studies that have been done around using prices ending in a 9 to increase sales. This technique works, and it works well. (A google search on psychological pricing yields some interesting reading).

It’s harder to find any concrete information about the now ubiquitous 7 used in internet marketing but give it a few years and I suspect some will appear. There are theories that 7 is the most friendly number so it will increase sales but I was unable to find any definitive answers on why 7 would be superior to the use of 9 (except a sketchy looking ebook that cost $47 that I was able to resist). Some say that 7 and 9 work equally well when pricing and by using a 7 internet marketers leave $2 (or $.02) on the table on every transaction.

Odd Pricing and Art

Few artists price their work to end in odd numbers.

Given the standard of odd prices, using even prices is also essentially psychological pricing.

Nordstroms uses even prices as an indication of their quality and sophistication. They stand out in the retail world as different.

I price my work in even numbers. Work that is $5000 is $5000, not $4900. My ACEOs are priced at $40 not $39. I do this for the same reason Nordstroms does – to indicate the product I am selling is a unique one of a kind piece of art.

[ACEO stands for “art cards, editions and originals”. Originally known as ATC, Artist Trading Card, and are traded between artists. When sold to the public they are referred to as ACEOs. The primary rule for an ACEO or ATC is they be 3 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ – the size of a trading card. They are created in many different mediums and are collectible, trade able and affordable art for everyone.]

Leveraging Psychological Pricing

As an interesting study it might be fun to lower the price for 6 months to $39 and see what effect this has on sales and perceived quality. If it increases sales by 10% the loss in $1 income on each ACEO I would still come out ahead in terms of sales. This is easy to measure as I know the rate at which I sell ACEOs today.

Where would I be in terms of perception of the quality of my artwork? That would be harder to study as I’m not exactly sure how to measure this. My gut feeling is that the perceived quality of my art would not be hurt by this small change as odd pricing is a standard and my prices are high enough to distinguish my artwork as most ACEOs sell for $10-$20 range.

As artists we should not be afraid of trying out new pricing ideas. There are no rules that say we much price with even prices. There is much we can learn about marketing if we get over our need to be special and study how other people sell their goods and services.

Wrap Up

Pricing is notoriously a difficult subject for artists as we tend to identify emotionally with our art. Spending the time to research pricing strategies, such as psychological pricing, can help us to overcome the emotion and make better choices with our pricing.

Over time I’ll be visiting several pricing strategies on because an informed artist is an empowered artist.

Do you use odd pricing / psychological pricing with your artwork? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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11 thoughts on “Psychological Pricing

  1. Daniel Edlen

    I valued your previous discussion about pricing your own work, especially the bigger, pricier originals. Having the guts to raise them was great.

    I think I, too, price my work at $175 instead of, say, #169.95 because it’s not a product in the sense that it’s not mass produced. It is an original sold by the creator, a real person. I keep track of my sales with handwritten receipts and then in an Excel spreadsheet. I don’t want to deal with .95s.

    I like the round numbers. I think it tells potential buyers that what you see is what you get. They can maybe better conceive of $150 or $175 in terms of their paycheck. I don’t go in much for trying to psychologically manipulate people so i try to keep it as simple as possible. It’s hard enough to get people to look at art with any serious intent to buy, so why mess with them?


  2. sueokieffe

    this is a fascinating read, lisa. ive never really thought about psychological pricing. i think working with round numbers is just easier. even when I created calendars, i used round numbers. i mean, is $29.99 really that different from $30?

    how do you ever get any art done with all your writing and working? bravo to you. yet im glad you are doing this to share your vast knowledge. thank you.

  3. Robin Koehler

    Very interesting about the number 7. I knew about 9 and how it has been used. I find it very strange when I have heard people say an item priced at $6.99 is $6 since that is exactly what they want you to think. I always round up in my head.
    In pricing my art, I use even numbers for simplicity vs. mental marketing. Your ACEO experiment would be fun to follow.
    Thank you for this blog. Robin

  4. Lisa Call

    Daniel – thanks for sharing your thoughts. That is an interesting thing to ponder – when does marketing turn from “getting the word out” to “manipulating the buyer”. I think for everyone the answer is different.

    In today’s email I got the following note from the universe:

    “It’s quite a small thing, Lisa, to begin wondering which beliefs of yours
    are limiting, which thoughts shut out others, and which philosophies need
    updating, but OMG, it makes for the BIGGEST life changes!”

    I’m all for transparency and even wrote a blog post the other day about it on my art blog: Following My Path. But I’m also all for making a living from my art and if studying and learning from marketing and sales professionals can help me then it seems short sighted to not understand the psychology of sales and to pick and choose the methods that fit into my philosophy.

    I think the use of prices that end in 9 is a very well known tactic and it’s been proven to work over and over again. Is it manipulation any more than choosing popular colors/themes/styles when creating art – or is it just good business practice? I think we all need to answer that for ourselves.

    Sue – yes the studies show that $29.99 is different than $30 and can make a noticeable difference in sales. Surprising really but it does work.

    And yes – I am super busy but I’m working on a sustainable business model and studying this stuff is a huge help in building my art career.

    Robin – I think the same thing – “do they really think that 9 or 7 is going to trick me – I can round up” – but apparently it works and it works well. I’ll let you all know if I do the ACEO test!

  5. Kirsty Hall

    I don’t know if it’s true but I remember reading once that the 99p convention was to make it harder for employees to steal from the till! Because they had to give a penny in change, they were forced to really ring it up rather than just pretending to and pocketing the money.

  6. Tim ONeill


    Nice post. Having spent the last 18 months studying internet marketing and investing in coaching from that business arena I can say they are the bestmarketer’s in the world. Better than real estate and insurance and investment folks even. Studying the marketing techniques of industries other than our own is the best way to move ahead and stand apart from the crowd. For those interested in the Psychology of persuasion you will find Robert Cialdini’s book of that title extremely valuable.

  7. Pingback: Another Great Idea | Contemporary Textile Art

  8. Robin Maria Pedrero

    I have played with these studies too Lisa. Especially when I had a store front studio gallery. The prints always sold better at a figure with .99 in the storefront. For me the unique original one of a kind pieces deserve their own solid price but a reproduction, mass produced product with my art or books can be the .99 or I get playful and use my gallery in the pricing using 523 somehow.

  9. Lisa Call

    Kristy – I’ve read that also – there are a lot of theories on where it started but I think noone knows for sure.

    Zachary – go for it (although the studies show that odd numbers have more of an impact)

    Tim – absolutely – the more we can learn from other industries the more creative we can be in marketing our work. A good friend of mine is a real estate agent and I love talking to her about marketing – I always learn so much.

    Robin – love the idea of pricing with your 523 in it. Good point about reproductions vs originals.

  10. Jen Osborn

    Lisa, thank you so much for starting this blog and sharing your thoughts {especially on time management and pricing}. I have to laugh, because for some reason I always want to price my art with a 7, but never knew why or that it drives sales. Now, I’m going to have to look into this more and experiment with different price endings. Must be the scientist in me wanting to experiment and track data :)

    I hope you are having a wonderful time in Africa, my mother did the same trip years ago and loved it! I look forward to hearing from you when you get home!

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