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Copywritting: Are you using percentages wrong?

Math is reliable. But the human mind? Not so much.

As Nick Kolenda writes in his recent newsletter, most customers believe that 125% more of something equals the same as 25% more.

It’s called the “Off By 100% bias,” and it’s a phenomenon where people underestimate the magnitude of percentage changes greater than 100%.

For example, shoppers assume that “150% more than 50 = 150% of 50,” when in fact 150% of 100 is 150, while 150% more than 100 is 250%.

But it’s not entirely the shoppers’ fault.

Believe it or not, it’s the copywriter’s fault.

Let’s say you’re selling batteries.

If your battery lasts nine hours, and you want to compare it to the customer’s existing battery which only lasts four hours…

  • Don’t say: Battery power that lasts 125% longer.
  • Say: More than double your battery life.

Because if you say it lasts 125% longer, your customer may think it lasts only a quarter more.

…Unless you’re a skilled media buyer and you know that a 125% ROAS increase is more than double the revenue!

So the next time you use percentages, keep these two pricing psychology tips in mind:

  • Make computing easy. Use discounts with round numbers. Buyers assume there are larger gaps between round numbers, so 5% seems much larger than 4.97%.
  • Stack the discounts. For example, you might offer a 20% discount and then offer 25% on top. To the customer, it will feel like a 45% discount when it’s actually a 40% discount.

Make sense? Good. Now it’s time to adjust your copy a bit so you don’t lose customers to the Off by 100% bias!

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