A simple rule to use $10 or 10% off

If a product is priced at above $100, use an 'amount off' discount (e.g. $20 off). If it’s priced at below $100 use a 'percentage off' (e.g. 20% off). People will be more likely to buy.

New to Ariyh? Join 5,358 evidence-based marketers for 3min tips 💡 based on research 🎓 to grow your business 📈 If you find these tips useful please share them with your colleagues and friends, Ariyh grows thanks to you!

Today’s tip is brought to you by… tl;dr Marketing

With tl;dr Marketing you get a highly curated digital marketing newsletter with summaries and links from the best sources. It saves you time and keeps you informed.

No Fluff, just links to the most important digital marketing stories, articles, and tools. 

Stay Informed

📝 Intro

People are bombarded by different offers: 20% off, $40 discount, or $12 cashback if you spend more than $120.

But which type of discount works best: amount or percentage? $20 or 20% off?

It depends on the price of your product.

P.S.: Ariyh usually teaches you new tactics or how to optimize them. But don’t forget about getting your strategy right. 

I’m a fan of this metaphor from my former Professor and employer, Stefano Puntoni:

“Imagine walking on very difficult terrain. To make sure that you do not fall, you need to look carefully where you put your feet. [i.e. tactics]

[But] If you are only looking down at your feet, you cannot look ahead and see whether you are going in the right direction [i.e. strategy]. You are not going to fall today but sooner or later you will hit a wall”.

Want to sponsor Ariyh? Here’s all you need to know.

Previous tip: People prefer crowdfunded products (All tips here)

Use $ amount off for high-priced items and % percent off for low-priced items

Impacted metrics: Customer acquisition
Channels: Promotions | Pricing
For: B2C. Can be tested for B2B
Tip type: Existing research (August 2015)

📈 Recommendation

If you are discounting a product that is priced more than $100, use an amount off discount (i.e. $X off).

If you are discounting a product that is priced less than $100, use a percentage off discount (i.e. X% off).

Keep “100” as the cutoff for other currencies too (e.g. for an item priced 180 pesos use 36 pesos off, not 20% off).

🎓 Effects

  • For higher-priced products, people perceive better value and are more likely to buy when a discount is an amount off (e.g. $25) rather than a percentage off (e.g. 10%).

  • For lower-priced products, the opposite happens. People perceive better value and are more likely to buy when a discount is a percentage off.

  • A cutoff of “100” (e.g. $100, €100, 100 pesos) determines what is high priced ( more than 100) and what is low priced (less than 100).

  • For example, in experiments:

    • When a jacket priced 480 pesos was discounted as 120 pesos off (vs 25% off), people

      • Perceived the offer as 12.4% better value

      • Said they were 16.3% more likely to buy

    • When balloons priced 48 pesos were discounted as 25% off (vs 12 pesos off), people

      • Perceived the offer as 7.8%* better value

      • Said they were 11.1%* more likely to buy

(Stated purchase intention in one of the experiments for a high priced jacked and low priced balloons - Click to zoom in)

New here? Subscribe for the latest marketing research 💡 from top business schools 🎓 in 3-min practical tips 📈 twice per week.

🧠 Why it works

  • Part of how we perceive the value of an offer is based on the absolute number of that discount (e.g. 10, 50).

  • That’s because we don’t always put in the mental effort to calculate a percentage discount to the equivalent amount.

  • For example, a 10% discount means we think of the number 10. If a price is higher than $100 (the equivalent amount would be more than $10 off), we perceive it as a smaller discount than what it actually is.

  • When we see $20 off instead of $10 off for a $200 item, we think of the number 20, which is higher, so better.

  • Mathematically, amount offs will look bigger than percentage offs when the price is higher than 100.

  • When we perceive a promotion as better value, we’re more likely to buy it.

✋ Limitations

  • The study tested both US dollars and Mexican pesos (100 pesos ≅ $5). The rule should apply to other currencies although this was not directly verified.

  • *The researchers state that for lower-priced products (below 100) it’s better to use a percentage off discount. However, this is based on the “direction” of results, the actual difference was not statistically significant. This means it’s probably not a big deal if you always stick to using an amount off, even for lower-priced items.

🏢 Companies using this

  • Companies seem to interchangeably use amount off or percentage off, rarely taking into account this rule.

⚡ Steps to implement

  • Match your discount type to the price of the products you are promoting

    • More than $100 -> Use $ off

    • Less than $100 -> Use % off

  • If adapting your discount types to prices is logistically difficult, stick to using amount off (i.e. $ off)

🔍 Study type

Lab and online experiments. Mexico and United States

📖 Research

González, E. M., Esteva, E., Roggeveen, A. L., & Grewal, D. (August 2015). Amount off versus percentage off—when does it matter?. Journal of Business Research.

[Link to paper]

🏫 Affiliations

EGADE Business School and Babson College. Mexico and United States.

Remember: This research could be disproven in the future (although this is rare). It also may not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.

Rate today’s tip to help me make Ariyh's next tips 🎓 even more useful 📈

How was today’s tip?
Loved it | Great | Good | Meh | Bad

Want to sponsor Ariyh or ask a question? -> Reach out at thomas@ariyh.com

New to Ariyh? -> Subscribe below or read other 3min marketing tips here