Pricing discrepancy: Why Customers Leave Before Checkout

By Thomas Bennett Financial expert at Priceva
Published on June 6, 2024
Experiencing a pricing discrepancy can often feel like reaching the last step of a marathon only to find the finish line has unexpectedly moved. Such discrepancies occur when the final price at checkout differs from what was anticipated or advertised earlier, directly impacting conversion rates and leading to abandoned carts. Addressing these issues is not just about correcting numbers; it's about aligning expectations, enhancing customer trust, and smoothing the path to purchase. By ensuring the price quoted matches the price paid, businesses can significantly reduce cart abandonment and boost their sales figures.

Common Causes of Pricing Discrepancies

The journey towards finalizing a purchase order is often marred by the unwelcome surprise of price discrepancy that lurk in the final stages of the checkout process. These discrepancies, stemming from additional shipping charges, taxes, fees, and other unexpected costs, can dramatically alter the final price, causing a stark deviation from the price initially anticipated by the customer. Such moments of revelation can unsettle customers, compelling them to reconsider their purchasing decisions. Addressing these price discrepancies early in the sales process is crucial for maintaining a transparent relationship with customers and ensuring a smooth and uninterrupted checkout experience. By accurately setting and communicating the total cost—including all additional fees—from the onset, businesses can significantly reduce the incidence of cart abandonment and foster stronger customer loyalty.

Unexpected Shipping Costs

For many retailers, the strategy of withholding shipping costs until the latter stages of the checkout process is employed as a means to initially attract customers with the allure of lower item prices. This approach, however, can backfire when the addition of delivery fees at the point of purchase leads to customer shock and subsequent cart abandonment. To counteract this, introducing a policy of free shipping for orders that exceed a specified value can be an effective solution. Such a strategy not only aids in absorbing the shipping costs in a manner that is more palatable to the business but also incentivizes customers to proceed with their purchase, thus directly addressing the issue of price discrepancies related to delivery charges.

Location-Based Taxes

The imposition of sales tax, which varies depending on the customer's location, introduces another layer of complexity to the online purchasing process. Customers often remain unaware of the exact total cost until they are moments away from confirming their order, a situation that can lead to frustration and surprise. To mitigate this, it is imperative for businesses to implement systems that calculate and display location-based taxes as early as possible in the shopping journey. Doing so not only helps in preempting the shock associated with sudden price increases but also plays a significant role in streamlining the checkout process, ensuring that customers are fully informed of the final cost from the beginning.

Hidden Fees

The introduction of hidden fees—be it for handling, account maintenance, or additional services—during the final stages of a transaction is a significant contributor to pricing discrepancies. These late-stage financial revelations can erode customer trust and lead to increased rates of cart abandonment. Businesses must strive for upfront transparency, disclosing all potential costs at the start of the purchasing process. This approach not only aids in maintaining customer trust but also ensures that customers are making fully informed decisions, thereby reducing the likelihood of last-minute purchase order cancellations. By addressing this price discrepancy directly, businesses can enhance their sales process, ensuring that price, as quoted on the site, matches the price paid at the time of purchase, thereby aligning with customer expectations and fostering a more reliable and trustworthy purchasing environment.

Metrics to Diagnose Discrepancies

Understanding the nuances and impact of pricing discrepancies is not just about identifying a problem; it's about unraveling the intricacies of customer behavior and the effectiveness of your sales funnel. The utilization of metrics like the cart abandonment rate, heat maps, and time on page analytics serves as a beacon, guiding businesses through the murky waters of checkout processes and pricing strategies. These analytical tools do more than just highlight discrepancies; they offer a window into the customer's journey, shedding light on moments of hesitation, confusion, or dissatisfaction. By closely examining these metrics, businesses can pinpoint the exact stages where pricing discrepancies become a hurdle, obstructing a smooth transition from interest to purchase.

Cart Abandonment Rate

Diving deeper into the cart abandonment rate reveals its significance as a barometer for the health of the checkout process. This metric does not merely quantify loss; it provides critical insights into customer decision-making. By understanding the percentage of potential customers who walk away after adding items to their cart, businesses can start to dissect the various factors contributing to this decision. Is it a sudden price increase that wasn't communicated upfront? Or perhaps additional fees that only become visible too late in the process? The answers to these questions lie in the data behind the cart abandonment rate, offering a clear direction for rectification and optimization.

Website Analytics

The role of website analytics, particularly heat maps and time on page, extends beyond traditional metrics. These tools act as a diagnostic instrument, revealing not just where customers are dropping off but why. Heat maps can visually represent areas of a webpage that receive the most attention versus those that cause confusion or disinterest. Similarly, analyzing the time spent on specific pages, especially during the checkout process, can indicate whether pricing information is clear and accessible or if discrepancies are causing customers to pause and reconsider. By integrating these insights, businesses can refine their pricing strategies, ensuring that the price displayed matches the price expected, and in turn, reduce the friction that leads to abandoned carts and lost sales. Implementing these adjustments is paramount in fostering a transparent and trustworthy environment where every purchase order reflects a positive customer experience from start to finish.

Strategies to Fix Discrepancies

The implementation of strategies like transparent pricing, value-based pricing, and upfront cost bundling plays a crucial role in enhancing the checkout experience, thereby fostering a seamless path to purchase. These strategies not only alleviate the sticker shock associated with unexpected costs but also align the perceived value of a product with its price, ensuring a fair and transparent transaction process.

1. Value-Based Pricing

Value-based pricing is a strategy that sets prices primarily on the perceived value to the customer rather than on the cost of the product or historical prices. This approach ensures that customers feel they are paying a fair price for the value they are receiving, which is particularly effective in mitigating the impact of unexpected costs. When customers understand and agree with the value proposition offered, they are more likely to accept the price as fair, reducing the likelihood of cart abandonment due to pricing discrepancies.

2. Bundle Costs Upfront

One of the most straightforward yet effective strategies to address pricing discrepancies is to bundle all potential costs upfront. This means providing customers with a comprehensive breakdown of the total cost—including taxes, fees, and shipping—early in their shopping journey. By doing so, businesses eliminate the element of surprise at checkout, replacing it with a transparent and trustworthy purchasing process. This early cost disclosure fosters a sense of trust and encourages customers to proceed to checkout with confidence, knowing there won't be any last-minute financial surprises.

3. Offer Incentives

Incentivizing customers through strategies such as free shipping thresholds can effectively neutralize the potential deterrent of additional costs. By setting a purchase order amount that qualifies for free shipping, businesses can encourage customers to add more items to their carts, thereby not only offsetting the shipping costs but also enhancing the overall shopping experience. This strategy cleverly transforms a potential negative—additional shipping costs—into an opportunity for both the customer and the business, leading to increased order values and improved customer satisfaction.


The essence of reducing pricing discrepancies at checkout lies in the adoption of transparent and optimized pricing strategies. By being clear and upfront about all costs associated with a purchase and ensuring that pricing strategies are aligned with customer expectations and the perceived value of the products, businesses can significantly streamline the checkout process. This commitment to transparency not only builds trust among customers but also simplifies their decision-making process, encouraging them to complete their purchases. Ultimately, these strategies lead to enhanced customer satisfaction, higher conversion rates, and a robust bottom line, proving that transparent pricing and conversion optimization are not merely trends but essential components of a successful e-commerce strategy.


What is a price variance discrepancy?

A price variance discrepancy emerges when there's an unexpected gap between the price customers anticipate paying and the price they are actually charged at the point of sale. This discrepancy can arise from a variety of factors, including but not limited to, unforeseen adjustments in costs, the application of taxes, or additional fees that were not clearly communicated upfront. Such discrepancies can lead to customer dissatisfaction as they feel misled about the final cost of their purchase, highlighting the importance of transparency in pricing.

How do you spell price discrepancy?

It signifies a situation where there is a mismatch between the price that was expected or advertised and the price that is ultimately charged. This could occur for several reasons, including system errors, late disclosure of additional costs, or changes in pricing that have not been updated across all platforms.

What is an example of a discrepancy?

A classic example of a discrepancy occurs in online shopping scenarios. Imagine a scenario where a customer finds a product listed at a certain price on a website's product page. Excited about the deal, the customer proceeds to add the item to their shopping cart, only to discover at checkout that the price has increased due to additional charges like taxes or shipping fees that were not disclosed earlier. This situation illustrates a pricing discrepancy, where the initial price seen by the customer does not match the final price at the time of purchase, often leading to confusion and frustration.

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