Shop Smarter: How Pricing Might Trick You About Quality

You might know that when it comes to commerce, not everything comes down solely to the product and its specifications. Brands invest lots of energy into the psychology behind their products, and it turns out that pricing has a particular influence on a shopper’s perception of quality. So, we think that science might be able to help you secure the best deal when shopping!

A study conducted by an assistant professor at The University of Texas at Arlington found that shoppers often judge a product’s quality based on price. It turns out that while we might be checking the specific attributes of two products, we’re also paying attention to the price, and the higher-priced item is likely to trick us into equating higher cost with higher quality.

This also affects people when they have the desire to buy local goods. “Consumers tend to use price to judge a product’s quality when their local identity is most important to them,” Janakiraman said. “When promoting high-priced or branded products, marketers can situationally activate consumers’ local identity. This finding might lead companies to appeal to a sense of identity intentionally, and that’s something shoppers should be on the lookout for. Buying local is a great way to support your community, but not if that “local” product is actually from a national corporation which opened a regional branch near you under a quaint new brand identity.

As smart shoppers, in the end, we don’t want to pay extra for a product if there’s not a valid reason for that mark-up. In the case of fair-trade or cruelty-free items, a higher price can be traced to better quality products and higher labor standards — things that are definitely worth the extra cost. Always check the ingredient list as well if they have one.

Yet what about that brand of soap with the fancy French name and beautiful packaging? If you can’t trace the higher price to higher production standards, you might be paying top dollar for nothing more than the illusion of higher quality. This study showed that shoppers judge high priced items as having a better quality, but they also judged low priced items as lower quality. Don’t let pricing (and packaging), trick you out of a good deal.

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