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Currently I'm considering whether it is better to have the prices for my company as descending (i.e. starting with the highest) or ascending. The table is laid out horizontally and there are already some opportunities for optimization e.g. highlighting a recommended option.

Are there any recent studies confirming whether ascending or descending offer a better conversion? Personally I would lean towards descending, as the user will be immediately exposed to your most expensive first (allowing for left to right reading), where as with the ascending they may not read as far as the most expensive option.

Point 3 of this article pretty much sums up my personal thoughts on it: http://uxmovement.com/content/7-useful-design-strategies-for-a-successful-pricing-table/

Would love to hear thoughts and if there are any studies to support that would be very helpful!

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

As per the article from UX Movement

Place Them in Descending Order

It’s a lot easier for users to move down on pricing than it is for them to move up. Start them off at the high-end and they won’t be able to ignore your high pricing plans. Start them off at the low-end and they’ll likely ignore the higher pricing plans and consider only the cheaper ones. Order your pricing plans from left to right by most expensive to least expensive, so that you’ll immediately expose users to the high pricing plans that they would otherwise ignore. Instead of only paying attention to the cheaper pricing plans, they’re now forced to look at all of them without bias.

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With regards to why this is recommended, I would recommend looking at this blog post which explains how descending prices help in improving conversion. To quote the post

Anchor Pricing Strategy

Anchor pricing: when we encounter a new product (and new business) we accept the first price that comes before our eyes and from then on that price becomes the anchor for what we are willing to pay for that product.

Ariely found that “once we buy a new product at a particular price, we become anchored to that price.

This why the elevator pricing strategy does not work. A common business practice is to entice new customers with lower prices, thinking that once customers are on the ground floor, they can be taken up the price elevator to higher profits. That elevator never gets off the ground because the customer’s price anchor won’t let the elevator go up. The anchor pricing strategy is to set the customer’s anchor at a higher price.

When you first come in contact with a customer, set the anchor high. Introduce them first to higher priced options. They will judge all future purchase decisions by that anchor. Later you can give them lower-price options, which they will judge against the higher price. This is really important and the point is driven home by Ariely:

“But price tags by themselves are not necessarily anchors. They become anchors when we contemplate buying a product or service at that particular price. That’s when the imprint is set. From then on, we are willing to accept a range of prices but as with the pull of a bungee cord, we always refer back tot he original anchor. Then the first anchor influences not only the immediate buying decision but many others that follow.”

The references are picked up from Dan Ariely’s book: Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

That said, Here are some additional articles worth checking out :

10 Principles of Effective Pricing Pages

The Decoy Effect in Price Tables

Pricing Tables: Examples And Best Practices

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Thanks Mervin, that was the article I had linked in my question. It does indeed offer some food for thought. Would love to see some studies to back up their comments but I have yet to find some –  Ronan Costello Mar 3 at 19:08
    
Ouch, I thought you had referenced the Smashing magazine article. I'll delete my response then –  Mervin Johnsingh Mar 3 at 19:10
    
No problem Mervin, appreciate you taking the time to comment nonetheless :) –  Ronan Costello Mar 3 at 19:11
    
@RonanCostello I edited my answer to remove the complete reference to UX movement and added inputs on why a descending order works best for conversion –  Mervin Johnsingh Mar 3 at 19:24
    
Thanks again Mervin. I like the theory behind the price anchoring strategy and can see it resonating with my stakeholders also. Much appreciated! –  Ronan Costello Mar 3 at 19:29

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