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We've all seen it:

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We're browsing through the products comparing prices trying to find the best deal when we run into one of these advertisements. "Price too low to show" normally followed with "add to cart to view price" or sometimes worse...

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This forces the user to break from their work flow to find out the price of this item, it requires them to do an undesired action (adding to cart when they don't really want to buy it), and potentially adds more clicks by having the user remove from cart and navigate back to where they were.

I am not asking why retailers do this, as I found out they are legally obligated to not display a price if it falls below the Minimum Advertised Price (MAP).

I was instead wondering:

A. How do users perceive this advertisement?

Do they become annoyed that they are forced to take the lengthy annoying process I described above? Or are they so excited about this mysteriously low price that they are willing to take the few extra steps?

If they are happy with taking the few extra steps but then find out the price really isn't that low do they then become exasperated or do they think it was still worth the endeavor?

B. How can this process be improved?

Does the phrasing "Price too low to show!" incite enough excitement to warrant showing, or is it too distracting and would be better replaced with a simple "Add to cart to view price"? I for one find "Price too low to show!" to be gimmicky and almost shady.

Is there any way (without digging too much into the legal aspect) to avoid the lengthy add to cart, view price, remove from cart, navigate back process? Have you seen this handled elsewhere more effectively?

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    I, for one, have never seen one of those, but it looks so much like cheap clickbait I wouldn't be surprised if it was confused with advertisement and lost its appeal due to banner aversion. What kind of websites show that kind of thing? Do you have examples? – JotaRMonteiro Aug 14 '15 at 19:36
  • I personally figure there's a con of some sort in play, and that the item is going to cost me extra to ship, or a handling fee, or take 12 weeks to get there or whatever. From my POV, the only reason for the seller to do this is that they are trying to hide something unpleasant. – Michael Kohne Aug 14 '15 at 19:42
  • Unfortunately since those deals don't last long I don't have any current examples but here's Amazon explaining why they do it – DasBeasto Aug 14 '15 at 19:45
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    I never saw it like this, only in cheap marketing schemes, weird to see it on big companies, but after reading your Amazon link I see why they do it.... and I wouldn't touch that with a 10 feet pole – Devin Aug 14 '15 at 20:10
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    @JeromeR haven't bought anything online in a long time probably over 6 months so I don't think it happens because of that, to be fair I don't see this too often just when I do it stands out enough to remember. – DasBeasto Aug 16 '15 at 20:54
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How Do Users Perceive This?

People are uncomfortable being forced to take action. (It triggers the reactance response.) When a user is forced to take a specific action to receive information they have normally get "for free", it will create animosity.

There is an Amazon discussion with many users who find the "Too Low to Show" implementation to be a gimmick.

For the number of users who understand MAP pricing, it is an accepted inconvenience.

How Can This Process Be Improved?

Follow the rules for adding a MAP product to the cart, but allow the user to see the price quickly and remove the product easily.

Best Buy has a great implementation for this. When the "Add to Cart" button is clicked, a special dialog is shown that shows the price (as the product is in the user's cart) and then asks the user if they would like to keep the item in their cart or remove it from the cart and continue shopping.

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The advantages of this method include:

  • The product is added to the cart per the online Minimum Advertised Pricing rules
  • The user is shown the price as quickly as possible
  • The dialog box keeps the user's current location rather than redirecting them to the cart
  • The user is still in control of the system, as they are given the choice to remove the product if desired

This solution is praised by UIE in the following article: http://www.uie.com/articles/web_apps_needs/

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    Fantastic answer just what I was looking for, certainly an improved and implementable method to avoid the forced animosity. – DasBeasto Aug 16 '15 at 16:30
  • Excellent answer. Not just explaining the why and the how, but also offering a better method. And quite succinct. – PixelSnader Aug 16 '15 at 21:27
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It's obviously a dark pattern to help engaging with the user.

Even though Amazon tries to justify the situation, it feels like a cheap excuse; transparency is paramount in commercial transactions.

I can't think of any reason to hide the price from the user; only for some mysterious interest of the company. And when you set the interests of a company before the users' you are consequently worsening the UX.

Summing up, in my honest opinion, this pattern cannot be improved. It should not be used at all, in favour of transparency.

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